The owner of a Range Rover SUV that was involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Phnom Penh turned himself in on Wednesday, though the driver is still at large, a senior traffic police official said.
On Tuesday, a university student was killed on the spot when her motorbike collided with the SUV in Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak I commune. Dum Rida, 22, was also a national top-ranking student in Khmer Literature.
Video footage of the accident went viral on social media, prompting the government to denounce the hit-and-run and Prime Minister Hun Sen to appeal for more attention on the rapidly increasing number of traffic accidents.
Phnom Penh municipal traffic police bureau chief Sem Kunthea said on Wednesday that the car’s owner, Yen Ngech, was not involved in the incident.
“Yen Ngech claimed to be the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident. But he said he was not inside the car at the time,” he said, adding that police were continuing to question Ngech to determine the identity of the driver.
Addressing nearly 2,000 graduate students at the National Institute of Education on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said traffic accidents have killed more people than in the country’s wars. He urged the authorities to look closely look at the issue.
“The traffic accident that killed the university student was widely shared [on social media]. Regarding the root cause of such a hit-and-run, it comes down to virtue . . . the driver lacks virtue."
“If you ride a bicycle, no matter how fast or slow you go, you are still faster than pedestrians. If you ride a motorbike, no matter how fast or slow, you are still faster than people who ride a bicycle or travel on foot,” he said.
The office of the government’s spokespeople on Wednesday also issued a statement denouncing the driver who caused the fatal accident and fled the scene.
“The car driver was inhumane, immoral and cruel . . . an irresponsible driver whose negligence has claimed the life of an innocent,” read the statement.
The municipal traffic bureau said the driver fled the scene and abandoned the SUV in Meanchey district. Police have impounded the car as evidence before preparing a case and sending it to court.
Dum Rida’s remains have been handed to her family for final rights at her hometown at Kampong Domrei village in Kandal province’s Prek Tameak commune. Local authorities said Ngech, the car’s owner, had paid $5,000 to her family for the funeral.
Ear Chariya, an adviser for the Road Safety Institute, urged police to bring the driver to justice.
“Such a fatal hit-and-run has caused many problems in our society. It contributes to social impunity, law violation and a further decline in morality."
“Authorities must take the toughest measures possible to bring the offender to justice without any exemption whatsoever,” he said.
According to Article 85 of the traffic law, any driver whose negligence causes the death of others faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 15 million riel ($3,750), whereas the hit-and-run driver faces up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to 25 million riel.