Officials for PMT Air say families of South Korean victims are asking for an unreasonably high amount of money in damages
Emergency workers reach the site of the PMT crash in Kampot’s Bokor Mountains in June 2007. There were no survivors.
MORE than a year after a chartered PMT Air flight bound for Sihanoukville crashed into a mountain in southern Cambodia, killing all 22 people on board, the families of 22 people who perished in Cambodia's worst air mishap in a decade are still waiting for compensation.
The families of 11 South Korean tourists killed in the crash have been driven by frustration to sue PMT last week for nearly US$4 million.
But officials for the airline say the compensation claim is too high and is only delaying a resolution in the case.
"They are demanding $4 million in compensation, which is too much," PMT President Sar Sareth told the Post Sunday.
"That is why a solution cannot be reached," he said. "We have learned from other air crashes around the world that this compensation is too high."
He added that negotiations with the victims' families are ongoing in Singapore, but that lawyers for a London-based insurance company are acting on behalf of PMT, which is not directly involved in the talks.
"Attempts to negotiate are ongoing, despite the lawsuit," he said, declining to name the insurance company involved.
But Sar Sareth also maintained that it was not PMT's responsibility to pay any compensation. "Our company only leased the plane from another company," Sar Sareth said.
He explained also that compensation agreements had already been reached with the families of the Cambodian victims, saying, "We don't have any difficulty over the Cambodian victims".
But he added that those families will not see any money until the issue with the South Korean families is resolved.
"We need some time for a solution," he said.
Soy Sokhan, secretary of state for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the families of the Cambodian victims were entitled to the same compensation package as the Koreans.
"A Korean is one life, a Cambodian is also one life," he told the Post. "So compensation should be equal."
The crash raised the alarm over the state of domestic air travel in Cambodia, which is experiencing a sustained tourism boom that has made air travel between its popular destinations increasingly lucrative. PMT, which ran services to some provincial airports, had a record of minor accidents.
The worst previous passenger air crash in Cambodia occurred in 1997 when a Vietnam Airlines flight slammed into the ground as it tried to land during a rain storm in Phnom Penh. Only one passenger, a toddler, survived. Sixty-five others died.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP