General Countersues Family After Crash That Killed 3-Year-Old Boy

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Traffic congestion in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2020. (VOD)
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A military general has countersued a family for $13,000 following a car crash that police blame him for and which killed the family’s 3-year-old boy.

One-star general Kang Bunthoeun, director of the military academy for the armed forces’ Region 6, was involved in a crash on the evening of November 29 in Kampong Chhnang province’s Rolea Ba’ier district, said deputy district police chief Sam Sokha.

Bunthoeun turned left off National Road 5 into the local military base and was crossing into the oncoming lane when his car and Vin Sola’s motorbike collided.

Sola, a 27-year-old motorbike mechanic, was riding with his 35-year-old garment worker wife and their 3-year-old son, Sokha said.

“[Bunthoeun] turned his car, he went into the other’s right-of-way, which belonged to the motorbike. … The child was smashed between motorbike and car,” Sokha said. “We feel very sorry about the incident, which happened because of the careless driver who turned his car without care as he turned his car into the other lane.”

Commune police chief Sor Sopheak said he was “speechless” about the general countersuing the family.

“The provincial police got in touch that Kang Bunthoeun had filed a counter-complaint to the court demanding $13,000. He accused Sola of hitting his car and of killing his own child — I was incredulous,” Sopheak said.

“Generally, when we cause injuries or kill people, we find a solution together and end the case,” he said.

Road crash cases are regularly settled out of court by parties agreeing to a financial payout to victims or their families.

The commune police chief added that Bunthoeun did not use his turning signals because they were broken, and was driving at high speed.

“After he crashed into them, he called his subordinates to come out and he ran into the base,” Sopheak.

The child had been flung from the front of the motorbike, he said.

“We’ve sent our case to the court. If the court doesn’t take our complaint and instead takes his counter-complaint — I don’t know what to say about Cambodian law,” the commune police chief added.

According to the Traffic Law, two adults and a child are allowed to ride on a motorcycle at once, with all passengers 3 years old and above required to wear a helmet. The law prohibits anyone involved in a road accident from leaving the scene without “reaching mutual agreement” or permission from police.

Sola’s brother Vin Sophea said the family had been on their way home around 7 p.m. in the evening after taking their boy to visit his grandmother.

The child was rushed to Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Hospital for surgery but died after arriving. Sola was hospitalized at the city’s Preah Ket Mealea Hospital for four days and nights, Sophea said.

“He suffered a broken leg and lost his lovely child, and he paid for his expenses at the hospital and funeral, but instead he gets a counter-complaint — it goes beyond my heart,” the brother said.

The general had claimed another person was driving the car, according to Sophea. “But my brother, after the crash he walked up and there was no driver,” he said, adding that the family had first demanded $20,000 in compensation.

Long Sitha, spokesperson for the Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court prosecution, said the court was in the process of questioning those involved in the incident.

Hit-and-run cases involving officials and their relatives have made headlines for years, including CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap fleeing a 2013 crash that killed a young woman — he never faced criminal liability; an Interior Ministry official’s son speeding away from a crash in 2014 after officers allowed him to fix a blown tire; and a car belonging to a provincial finance department director driving away from a crash that killed two people.

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