Authorities should not allow prominent ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yeap to escape a “full investigation and possible prosecution” in connection with a fatal hit-and-run accident involving his car on November 22, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.
In a statement, the international rights watchdog says that although Yeap’s driver was at the wheel, the lawmaker was under a legal obligation to stop his car at the scene, inform local authorities and help the injured get to a hospital.
“The authorities should enforce the law instead of protecting senior [Cambodian People’s Party] politicians”, HRW Asia director Brad Adams said.
The CPP's de-facto spokesman was travelling through Kandal’s Kien Svay district when his car collided with an oncoming motorbike carrying Pin Sophea and her husband Pheoun Tha, before driving away.
Sophea died in hospital, while Tha suffered serious injuries. Yeap, who could not be reached yesterday, previously disputed the characterisation of the incident as a hit-and-run, saying his lawyer had gone to speak to police shortly after the incident. He told the Post that he fled the scene out of fear of violent mob retribution.
“Under Cambodian traffic law, Cheam Yeap may be liable for up to three years in prison,” HRW says.
Kar Savuth, Yeap’s lawyer, said yesterday that the case was long “finished” as the victims had received compensation from the lawmaker and withdrawn a police complaint.
“There is no penal action being taken against Cheam Yeap because he was not the driver.”
But Ven Sovin, Kandal deputy police chief, said the case was sent to the provincial prosecutor late last week.
Deputy prosecutor Sam Rithy Veasna, who will decide whether the case has enough evidence to be sent to an investigating judge at the provincial court, said yesterday that he was still reading and studying the case.