A tuk-tuk driver who damaged a car while driving drunk got off by apologising yesterday, after nearly 200 of his comrades held a loud demonstration in front of Phnom Penh’s traffic police department.
Police returned a tuk-tuk to Phuon Noeurn, 20, whose vehicle and means of supporting his family had been held by police since he crashed it into a Toyota Prius on March 8, after the car’s owner agreed to forgo the $700 in damages he had demanded for an official apology.
“What is unacceptable is police allowed the car owner to take his car back before the case was resolved, but they did not allow the same for [Noeurn], who needs his tuk-tuk to earn a living,” said Heang Vithya, deputy director of Cambodia Confederation Development Association (CCDA), which organised yesterday’s protest.
CCDA members gathered in front of the office, just off Sihanouk Boulevard, at about 8am, with a microphone and loudspeaker, demanding police return the tuk-tuk.
Police’s seizure of Noeurn’s tuk-tuk occurred about a week ago, when he crashed into the Prius, parked on Street 63, near Central Market. He admitted to driving drunk and damaging the car – owned by the sister of a man who identified himself to the Post as Pov, a civil servant.
As the raucous demonstration unfolded yesterday, Noeurn bemoaned the fact that his tuk-tuk is his livelihood and that the crash was unintentional.
“How can I afford [to pay damages], since my family is very poor?” Noeurn complained. “My family depends solely on my income.”
Amid the protest, traffic police deputy director Sem Sokunthear called in Pov, the car owner, Noeurn and a CCDA representative to negotiate at the station.
After Noeurn said he could only afford to pay $50, Pov’s sister agreed to accept an apology rather than any monetary compensation at about noon.
“I want to say that settling this matter by holding a demonstration affected the dignity and reputation of police officials,” Pov said after accepting a written apology. “Do not drive drunk.”
Many CCDA members were active protesters during the imprisonment of land-activist Yorm Bopha, whom they claim had two of their members beaten. Bopha denied the charges but spent more than a year in prison during 2012 and last year.