An intervention police officer in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district was detained on September 8 on orders from National Police chief Neth Savoeun over an alleged assault stemming from a minor incident.

According to the municipal police department’s report, at about 8:20pm on September 8, an incident occurred in the district’s Veal Vong commune wherein officer Mat Pisey hit a woman on the head with his walkie-talkie while she and her brother were attempting to evade a checkpoint on a motorcycle.

Just prior to the incident, the duo were riding without wearing helmets, prompting officers to signal them to stop, at which point they attempted to flee.

As the bike turned around, Pisey hit the woman passenger in the head, causing her to fall to the ground.

“Police officers will accompany the official responsible for the incident to a meeting with the victim’s family to negotiate compensation for medical expenses. Or, if the victim prefers, the police will proceed with filing a criminal case against the responsible party with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s prosecutor,” he said.

“Should the victim agree to a settlement and compensation, the official responsible for the violent conduct will still be subject to workplace discipline under the rules of his department.

”However, the driver of the motorcycle bearing the victim also broke the law by fleeing and evading law enforcement officers and for that offence we must also follow the law,” he said.

The woman posted her version of the encounter with the police officer to Facebook on September 8. She said she planned to file a complaint against Pisey for the assault.

Kim Panha, director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Cambodia (AIP Foundation), said the use of violence during traffic stops by law enforcement was illegal in Cambodia and also nonsensical because the goal of traffic law enforcement was to protect people’s lives.

“If our law enforcement officers are hurting people because they might hurt themselves by not wearing a helmet, that is clearly not the goal society has for enforcing our traffic laws,” he said.

Panha supported the action taken by the authorities.

“We need to ensure that our police officers are using a gentle approach against offenders in areas like traffic enforcement,” he said.