POLICE in Kampong Cham province have released a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier who earlier this week struck two girls with his Toyota Camry – killing both – while trying to avoid two mating buffalo that had run onto National Road 74, officials said yesterday.
Provincial police chief Nuon Samin said the soldier, 53-year-old Hean Sovann, had agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money in compensation to the families of the two girls, who were both 13.
“We decided to release the RCAF soldier because, according to our investigation, we have found that he had no intention of hitting these two girls,” Nuon Samin said.
He said Hean Sovann had been driving at a speed no greater than 40 kilometres per hour on Monday evening when he came upon the buffalo, which were apparently surprised by the car and began “immediately running into the road”. In response, Nuon Samin said, Hean Sovann “drove his car to escape them, but, unfortunately, it crashed and killed two girls who were standing near the road”.
His account of the incident differed from that of Prak Bunnun, the Ponhea Krek district police chief, who on Wednesday said that Hean Sovann had been speeding when he struck the girls.
Muong Sarin, deputy prosecutor at Kampong Cham provincial court, said on Wednesday that he believed prosecutors would pursue criminal charges against Hean Sovann if he were transferred to the court. Yesterday, however, he said he did not believe the case necessarily called for legal proceedings.
“The punishment could be dropped if they accept their responsibilities and pay compensation” to the “relevant authorities and the families of the victims,” he said.
But Neang Sovath, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, expressed frustration with Hean Sovann’s release. “I don’t agree with the police’s management,” he said. “The soldier has driven and killed two people. He should be punished and jailed even though he has paid the victims’ families compensation.”