A driver allegedly responsible for three deaths and three injuries over the weekend was charged yesterday and will remain in jail despite his father’s high-ranking status in Phnom Penh government, police insisted.
Driving a black Range Rover, Bun Ratanak, 30, allegedly crashed into a line of motorbikes at about 5:30pm on Saturday in Meanchey district. Phnom Penh police chief Chhuon Sovann said Ratanak had been charged yesterday by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for causing deaths and injury by driving.
Initial local media reports suggested Ratanak had avoided jail through an out-of-court settlement, but Sovann denied the rumour. Ratanak, who is the son of Bun Serey, a director of Phnom Penh Municipal Hall’s finance office, will be sent to pre-trial detention, he added.
“No matter how rich a perpetrator is, he cannot pay for the victims’ lives and he has to be given justice by the court,” Sovann said. “Even if the victims’ families had received the compensation, the perpetrator has to be tried in court.”
Ratanak faces civil and criminal charges stemming from the crash, Sovann said. Families of the victims have accepted compensation from him.
A Meanchey district police officer said Ratanak paid all funeral expenses and will pay further expenses later.
The determination to pursue criminal charges despite the victims’ families accepting compensation is reminiscent of the March hit-and-run case of 23-year-old medical student Keam Piseth Narita. After crashing her car on Norodom Boulevard, she ran into a crowd of people while fleeing the accident, killing three children and injuring 11 bystanders.
None of Narita’s victims pressed charges after her family settled with the victims’ families out of court, but a judge last month dished out a three-year suspended sentence with three and a half months to serve, and a six million riel [$1,500] fine.
At the time, Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, called the punishment a step forward in Cambodian justice. But, regarding Ratanak’s case, Virak said he needs to wait and see how the trial plays out.
“It’s not a guarantee that he will not be able to buy himself out,” Virak said. “I want to see the trial and I want to see the sentencing.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN