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Drunken driver faces prison

A 21-YEAR-OLD man yesterday confessed in a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court that he unintentionally killed another man in Dangkor district while driving drunk on October 2, as a prosecutor refused to comply with a request by police that charges against him be dropped.

Seng Vuthy was arrested after he collided with and killed Leng Sovanara, 28, while riding on his motorbike in Dangkor district’s Kabab commune at around 9pm. He said yesterday that prior to the incident he had consumed “up to five cans of ABC”, a brand of beer.

He was charged with causing unintentional death under Article 82 of the Land Traffic Law, which calls for jail terms of between one and three years and fines of between 2 million and 6 million riels (US$1,425).

Defence lawyer Neang Hay said yesterday that the charges should be dropped because his client had carried the victim to hospital and offered to help cover funeral expenses.

“I requested that the court free my client, because he had acknowledged his fault and showed his good will for not escaping from the scene, and he had already paid compensation to the victim’s family for the funeral,” Neang Hay said.

A court clerk also read out a note from a brother-in-law of the victim, who also asked that the charges be dropped on account of the fact that the death was accidental.

A statement from traffic officer Nhjem Sam Ol that was also read during the hearing said the accident “had been reconciled at our police station with civil compensation after the accused agreed to pay for all fees for completing the victim’s funeral on October 3, following his confession and acknowledgement of his fault”.

But Hing Bunchea said the confession provided the evidence needed to secure a conviction, and that he would “require the court to punish the man according to the law”.

“Following his confessions and acknowledgement of his fault at all levels of investigation, this really proved him guilty,” he said.

Presiding Judge Chang Sinat said a verdict would be announced on November 15.

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal traffic police, said yesterday that most traffic accidents were settled out of court, but that police routinely filed reports to the municipal court in cases of death or injury. He said he did not know how many actually went to trial.

The accident involving Seng Vuthy occurred one day after traffic police launched nighttime checkpoints in the capital to curb drunken driving. The checkpoints were closed during the Pchum Ben festival and have not been reopened because of heavy rains and flooding, Chev Hak said.

Nevertheless, he said the checkpoints had been effective in reducing traffic accidents and “other such penal crimes”, because drunk people are more likely to commit “rape, murder, and robbery”.

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