A man accused of killing three people in a hit-and-run crash who was brutally beaten by bystanders at the scene stood trial yesterday but said he had zero recollection of the incident when questioned by the judge.
Meas Sokheng, 30, was charged with “careless driving” causing death and injury after ramming his car into a Toyota Camry and several motorcycles while in the wrong lane on Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard in March. The incident killed three and injured eight others.
As Sokheng attempted to flee the crime scene, he was severely beaten by a large mob for several minutes before the police intervened. He was taken to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, where he remained in a coma for the next few days. After waking up, he was charged and sent to Prey Sar prison for pretrial detention.
However, at the trial yesterday, Sokheng seemed to have no recollection of the incident, or even basic personal information, when questioned by trial Judge Nou Veasna.
“Where do you live?” Veasna asked. “I don’t know,” replied Sokheng. “What is your date of birth?” Veasna continued. Sokheng had the same reply. Sokheng offered the same response for all of the questions put to him, only deviating to say that he had been in hospital. When asked about the accident, the accused only pointed to his head where he had been injured.
Despite this line of questioning, there was no medical report or evidence submitted to court detailing Sokheng’s injuries or current mental state, except for a prison guard testifying that the accused spent most of his time in a prison clinic.
Tin Vansy, Phnom Penh municipal traffic police chief, testified that Sokheng was in the wrong in the fatal accident.
“It was his fault because he drove in the oncoming lane because there was traffic congestion in the front,” he said. “He hit a Corolla and another car. Those cars chased him and he tried to flee,” he said.
In April, Vansy said that there was no investigation into the brutal mob beating of Sokheng, and yesterday again said it was not possible to identify those involved in the beating.
Relatives of the three victims have demanded compensation of $10,000 each, with the same demand made by one of the injured as well.
However, a lawyer for Sokheng asked the court to consider his cognitive state when delivering a verdict, pushing for a light sentence. Sokheng is charged under articles 83 and 85 of the Road Traffic Law and faces up to three years in prison for each charge.
Naly Pilorge, deputy director of advocacy for Licadho, said the prosecutor had to balance Sokheng’s alleged crimes against the beating that may have impaired his cognitive abilities.
“In another country, psychiatric and medical tests and results would need to be submitted [to court],” she said.