Provincial Traffic Police Chief Suspended After Alleged Drunk Driving

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Traffic police stand along National Road 6 in Kampong Thom province on May 13, 2020. (Kampong Thom Provincial Police Headquarters)

The traffic police chief in Kampong Thom province has been suspended after allegedly driving drunk and crashing his vehicle into roadway barricades last week, police officials said.

Rom Sovichea, the traffic police chief, was temporarily suspended from his position and will be required to report to provincial police headquarters every work day until a final decision about his employment is made, according to a notice from National Police Chief Neth Savoeun dated Saturday.

Sovichea, who appeared to be intoxicated, drove his personal car into the barricades surrounding a statue of a layman on Friday at about 9 p.m., National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told VOD on Sunday. 

Government-aligned media portal Fresh News published photos on Saturday of a Lexus SUV alongside an article about Sovichea’s suspension. No injuries were reported.

“Even though he is [part of] the traffic police or any kind of police officer, whenever someone violates the traffic law, they need to be fined and punished under the law like regular people,” Kim Khoeun said.

This month, the government launched a nationwide traffic law enforcement campaign and increased various fines for traffic infractions in an effort to limit roadway casualties. Some observers have warned the move would disproportionately impact low-income motorists. 

Under the raised fines, which police started enforcing on May 1, drunk driving fines were increased by five times their previous rate to between 1 million and 4 million riel (about $250 to $1,000), depending on the type of vehicle. 

Kim Khoeun said officials will decide if Sovichea will be temporarily or permanently suspended from the provincial traffic police force. 

Interior Minister Sar Kheng issued a warning letter to Sovichea dated March 26 and seen by VOD in which Kheng notes Sovichea’s “carelessness in implementing duties,” although the document does not specify his alleged wrongdoing.

At the time, Kheng also sent warnings to Kampong Thom provincial police chief Ouk Kosal for purported lack of leadership, and his three deputies, Tith Samnang, Va Chankosal and Im Sokoeun, for “carelessness.”

Kim Khoeun told the Phnom Penh Post earlier this month that if the five police officials made additional, unforgivable mistakes following the warnings, they would be removed from their positions.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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