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Charges laid over explosion

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has charged the owner of a garage operating out of a petrol station with arson following the explosion of a fuel tanker near the station last Wednesday, court officials said.

Deputy court prosecutor Heang Sophak said yesterday that Nuth Samoeun, 49, was charged on Friday in relation to the explosion of the Sokimex fuel truck, which destroyed around five homes and sent a plume of black smoke rising over the city.

The driver of the truck, which was carrying around 8,000 litres of petrol at the time of the incident, faces similar charges, Heang Sophak said, but fled the scene following the explosion and is still on the run from the authorities.

Arson, as defined under Article 53 of the UNTAC Penal Code, applies to “any person who damages or attempts to damage the property of another through use of fire or explosives” and carries a punishment of between one and three years in prison.

Witnesses said that last week’s explosion, which occurred when petrol dripping from the Sokimex tanker was ignited by its exhaust, destroyed five homes and at least five vehicles parked in the area.

No major injuries were reported at the scene of the blaze, which took more than 20 fire trucks and 60 tanks of water to extinguish.

Heang Sophak said that around 10 people had also lodged had complaints to local authorities and the Phnom Penh Municipal court seeking civil compensation from Nuth Samoeun. He would not reveal the specific number of complainants or give an estimate of the total cost in damages incurred by the fire.

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