Four months after the hit-and-run that killed expatriate Tomas Beecher in Phnom Penh, members of the Irishman’s family say they’re losing hope they’ll see justice, with Cambodian authorities no closer to catching the alleged driver.
Police immediately vowed to arrest the driver of the Range Rover that struck and killed 30-year-old Beecher at 1:30am on September 28 as he crossed Monivong Boulevard with his bicycle.
The following month, investigators charged in absentia Sila Ratanak, a 20-year-old university student and daughter of a provincial official, with careless driving causing death.
However, contacted yesterday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said Ratanak had not been arrested.
“We don’t know where she is,” he said, before asking whether the Post knew Ratanak’s whereabouts.
“I sent the [hit-and-run] case to the investigating judge for further investigation.”
Speaking from Ireland, Beecher’s sister Helen said the family had not received any recent updates about the case and was losing hope that someone would be held responsible.
“Obviously we want justice to be served, but we’re not that confident that will happen,” she said. “But I don’t know what else we can do from our side; it’s in the hands of the local police, and we hope they do the right thing.”
According to police, Ratanak’s father, Hou Sila, a deputy tourism police chief in Preah Vihear, has been charged with providing the vehicle to his daughter, who fled after the crash. However, it’s unclear when he will face court.
Ear Chariya, road safety program manager at Handicap International, said police commonly balk at prosecuting crashes involving powerful and high-ranking people.
“It is difficult to get results from these kinds of cases because police and court officials are afraid of these high-ranking people,” he said. “The government should do more to empower police and officials to improve justice; everyone should face justice regardless of their wealth or power.”
Ruth Barrett, spokeswoman for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, said the country’s embassy in Vietnam remained in contact with Cambodian authorities regarding the case.
However, she refused to comment in detail.
Beecher, who had previously been living in South Korea, moved to Phnom Penh to start a hospitality business and was renovating the Golden Mekong Hotel in Daun Penh district.
Gerard McGahan, who knew Beecher from his time in South Korea, slammed the “disappointing” investigation into the death of his friend, who he described as “generous, friendly and down-to-earth”.
“It is a miscarriage of justice that [Ratanak] can just walk away from this,” he said.
Helen Beecher said the family was supporting each other and on January 25 had joined with Tomas’s friends to mark his birthday and raise €9,000 ($10,000) for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which aims to alleviate the financial hardship of bereaved families repatriating the bodies of loved ones, according to its website.
“We are obviously upset but we are a close family,” she said. “He would have been 31; he was an amazing guy.”