Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pol Lim’s son will not be charged for firing a gun while fleeing a minor car accident on Saturday, and will instead only be punished in his capacity as a Traffic Department official, Kandal Police Chief Eav Chamroeun said yesterday.
Lim Chamnan, who is a deputy chief of Kandal’s Provincial Traffic Department, set off a stream of public anger over the weekend after footage of him firing a gun in the air while speeding away from the small accident on National Road 1 in Phnom Penh went viral on social media.
Police Chief Chamroeun said that Chamnan had admitted both to causing the accident and firing his weapon afterward – claiming to have been afraid – but said that the official had reached a private settlement with the victim and would only be punished within his department.
“This morning, he went to Phnom Penh and settled with the party, who claimed he had caused the traffic accident,” Chamroeun said, describing the accident as “not serious”.
“It was a small impact that happened because he was in a rush to see his sick child and he tried to overtake” the car he damaged, the police chief explained. “He was scared when the car behind him chased him … and he pulled out the gun and shot into the air”.
Chamroeun said the punishment would include confiscation of Chamnan’s gun, a temporary suspension from work and a warning letter from high-up.
“He will face punishment for shooting into the air, causing fear in other people and disrupting public order. We have given him a warning letter from the national police commissioner,” the police chief said.
Dash-cam footage from the victim’s car posted by Fresh News shows Chamnan’s car accelerating away after hitting the side of the victim’s vehicle. After being tailed down the busy street, a person in Chamnan’s car lowers his side window and pulls out a gun and sounds of gunshots can be heard. The victim’s vehicle and its passengers emerged unscathed from the incident.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Executive Director San Chey said that Chamnan should face criminal charges. “I don’t think that the punishment is fair now, because he used a gun to fire to threaten the driver,” Chey said. “It must be a criminal charge rather than [an administrative] punishment.”
Chey said the light punishment amounted to “impunity” and that proper legal action should be taken as a deterrent against future instances of unwarranted weapon use by officials.
“Getting the case to face a criminal charge could be something that could stop this from happening in the future. Several [such] conflicts have happened in the past,” he said.
In 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered provincial governors to punish any officials or their friends and families if they wielded guns or other weapons in public in an attempt to quell anger about high-ranking officials walking away free after committing such offences.
National Police Chief Neth Savoeun said he did not have “any official information” about the case, before hanging up. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak directed questions to National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith, who declined to comment.