Soldier Dies by Suicide After Car, Bought With Debt, Confiscated

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Cambodian soldiers celebrate the 65th anniversary of the nation’s independence on November 9, 2018. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

The finance and defense ministries are looking into the case of a Banteay Meanchey province soldier who died by suicide after his car, which he used for work, and which put him thousands of dollars in debt, was confiscated by the customs and excise department.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces spokesman Mao Phalla said on Monday that the man, Neang Rithy Chhay, paid for the car himself but used it for work and had a military license plate for it.

But the license plate had been removed during repairs after an accident, and it was confiscated by a mobile customs unit while being driven without the plate, according to Phalla and a family member.

“He was disappointed because he had used his money to buy the car,” Phalla said. Local news published photos online of a green Toyota pickup truck.

Region 5 commander Chhun Mao said it was not just his money, but also his parents’. They had sold land and borrowed money for the car, Mao said.

According to an Army letter to the customs and excise department requesting the car’s return, the car had been confiscated since November.

Finance Ministry spokesperson Kim Sopheak said the department was looking into the case.

Rithy Chhay’s brother-in-law, Men Sak, said the soldier had borrowed money from several  sources — including from his army unit — to buy the $6,700 vehicle, and after paying for repairs he had little money left.

He had spoken of his disappointment and struggles, Sak said.

The Transcultural Psychosocial Organization’s Phnom Penh treatment center offers professional mental health support. Cambodia’s emergency service numbers are 119 for an ambulance and 117 for police.

Additional reporting by Mech Dara

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