An investigating judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has placed the suspect in a hit-and-run road accident – which killed a successful athlete – in pre-trial detention.

Court spokesperson Y Rin announced on December 24 that the investigating judge charged the man, Prum Vichet Soksakda, under article 85 of the road traffic law and article 543 of the Criminal Code. 

Peng Meng Kong, spokesman for the prosecution office, confirmed that Vichet Soksakda has been charged with careless driving causing death and leaving the scene of an accident.

The incident took place on the night of December 14 in the capital’s Tuol Kork district. A Jeep driven by the suspect struck well-known badminton player Sieng Kimhong while he was riding his motorcycle. Kimhong died instantly while the driver fled the scene.

The case went viral on social media, with many users questioning as to why the driver had not been arrested sooner. The public’s ire grew when it was discovered that the slain man was a prominent athlete, who had celebrated many wins and brought fame to the Kingdom.

Although he did not directly refer to the case, Prime Minister Hun Manet instructed police to enforce the law, no matter what. 

“If a suspect is caught red-handed committing a crime, like causing a death in a traffic accident, there is no need to ask for permission from your superiors – just arrest the suspect. If the suspects refuse to comply, go ahead and handcuff them. Arrest them even if they are the children of senior [government] offiicials. There is no need to worry about any intervention. I, the prime minister, have your back,” he said during last week’s annual meeting of the Ministry of Environment.

Phnom Penh municipal police spokesperson Sam Vichheka said a specialised police unit had assembled evidence, witness accounts and a confession from the suspect before sending him to the court for legal proceedings. The confession came after the suspect turned himself in to the police on December 23.

Sieng Bunleang, 50, the victim’s father, described the loss of his son as a huge loss to his family. He explained that Kimlong, who had been the centre of the family, left behind a six-month-old son and a grieving widow. He sought justice and acceptable compensation for his family.

“On behalf of my family, I thank the government leadership and the police who pursued the case until the suspect handed himself in and confessed. I want the court to find justice for my son and order an appropriate compensation,” he said.

According to Bunleang, his son had earned around 40 medals from national-level badminton competitions. As a Cambodian representative, Kimlong had competed in several countries including the Philippines, Japan and Malaysia. 

According to article 543 of the Criminal Code, a driver who causes an accident or damage but fails to stop or attempts to evade any civil or criminal liability shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years and a fine of up to four million riel ($1,000).

Article 85 of the road traffic law states that any driver who drives without care or attention or in violation of their obligations, resulting in the death of others, shall be imprisoned from one to three years, and fined from 4 to 15 million riel ($1,000 to $3,750). 

If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or unlicensed, and fled the scene, they shall be imprisoned from between two to five years, and fined from 10 to 25 million riel ($2,500 to $6,250).