A hit-and-run driver sentenced to a year in prison by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for killing a promising young scholarship student walked free from prison on Monday afternoon despite having served only two months of her punishment.
Yin Khun Mey, also known as Yin Mana, was handed down the jail term after the Range Rover she was driving crashed into university student Dum Rida’s motorbike in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on March 26, killing her on the spot.
Wednesday would have seen Khun Mey serve two months of her one-year custodial sentence as she had been held in pre-trial detention since March 29.
A rights group spokesman said her early release highlighted the disparity between the treatment of the rich and the poor in Cambodia’s legal system.
General Department of Prisons spokesperson Nuth Savna declined to comment further on Khun Mey’s release, saying only: “Khun Mey was released from prison on the afternoon of Monday.”
Sok Uorng, the lawyer for the family of the victim, told The Post on Tuesday that he would follow his clients’ wishes.
“Yin Mana was charged and sent to prison by the court on March 29. My clients filed their complaint for compensation the same day."
“After negotiations, my clients accepted the compensation offered by the family and withdrew their complaint at the court on April 3. The prosecutor’s complaint was under the court’s jurisdiction to decide upon,” Uorng said.
On May 17, the court sentenced Khun Mey to one year in prison, with three years suspended, and banned her from driving. She served two months in jail before being released, he added.
Uorng said he could not explain three years of the sentence being suspended. He said the reason should be asked of the court as the sentence was decided by one of its judges.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Ly Sophana could not be reached to comment on this issue.
The driving ban did not have a specific timeframe but was to be decided by the court as well.
Soeung Sen Karuna, the spokesman for rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Tuesday that all people should be treated equally under the law.
“This case was under the jurisdiction of the court, but the problem is the practice in Cambodia of the rich and powerful having the influence to solve their problems. If the offenders are poor, they can receive stricter punishments,” he claimed.
In order to have equal treatment, Sen Karuna said he would like to see the authorities enforce the law regardless of whether a person is rich or poor. Special treatment should not be given to powerful and wealthy individuals who broke the law and often reoffended.
When asked whether he had documents to show that the enforcement of Cambodian law was unequal in its treatment or not transparent, Sen Karuna said Adhoc lawyers could prove inequality existed.
However, he said he could not show the documents to The Post on Tuesday evening as it was late in the night and he was working in the provinces.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Sophana said he was in a meeting when contacted for comment on Yin Mana’s early release. He requested that questions be sent via text message. However, he failed to respond by press time on Tuesday.
The Range Rover Khun Mey was driving crashed into Rida’s motorbike on March 26, killing the 22-year-old Khmer literature scholar.
The accident drew outrage from the public after footage of the accident went viral on social media, prompting the Office of the Council of Ministers to denounce the hit-and-run and Prime Minister Hun Sen to appeal for more attention to be paid to the rapidly increasing number of traffic accidents.
Accompanied by her father Yen Ngech, Khun Mey turned herself in on March 29. On the same day, Investigating Judge Bun Thy placed her in pre-trial detention at the capital’s Police Judiciaire (PJ) prison, known to house prisoners with connections and wealth who have fallen foul of the law.