What might have otherwise become just another anonymous moment of vehicular impunity on the streets of Cambodia’s capital has leapt into the public consciousness and will now likely stay there for much longer than many in officialdom want, thanks to a bystander with a mobile phone camera.
Could this be Cambodia’s first viral video?
The low-fi, 34-second clip was originally on the blog LTO Cambodia last Thursday and has since logged 34,000 views from combined YouTube postings.
On another popular web forum, Khmer440, two separate posting on the incident had received a total of 3,125 views by Monday afternoon.
Comments on LTO Cambodia range from the jaded – “That’s Phnom Penh!” – to the incredulous.
“How can Cambodia move forward if these people are doing this to their own country?” one poster asks.
The driver has been reported by police as Sok Than, a deputy director at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations Inspection Department. His family says he suffers from a mental illness, according to deputy municipal traffic police director Pen Khon. The vehicle has been confiscated, while Sok Than was released on Thursday into his family’s care.
It’s unclear if charges will be laid.
“It is an individual’s problem and does not affect the government,” replied Council of Minister Spokesman Phay Siphan when asked by a reporter whether this kind of behaviour, now making the rounds on the social media websites, embarrasses a government struggling to address both impunity and one of the worst traffic records in Asia.
Others were less forgiving.
“He should resign from his position for such behaviour,” said one government officials who did not want to be named. “He is a top official so he should do the polite thing and respect local authorities and the law.”
The incident highlights the immediacy of information in a country where, not too, long ago the official record was something that was always subject to debate.
“These days, when you see an accident or any unusual cases on the street, you can capture that very moment and tell your friends,” said prominent Cambodian blogger Tharum Bun via Google chat.
“Web tools like YouTube and Facebook help spread the stories faster and faster.
“I was on Twitter and quickly learned that a Phnom Penh expat had just posted a blog post with video about a traffic accident. … While watching the video, I told a friend about this and sent her the link,” he added.
“A day later I realised that people on social networking sites shared the video clip on Facebook. Thus, friends of their online friends are well aware of this.”