POLICE have arrested two men suspected of stealing about one tonne of railway steel from a regularly used train track that connects Kampot province to Phnom Penh, police said yesterday.
Sam Uk, Teuk Chhou district police chief, said the two men were arrested on Friday while allegedly transporting the steel by truck through the district.
“They are destroying state property. They are thieves because they took the railway’s steel to sell,” he said.
“Their actions would cause many thousands of people to be killed in a train accident if a train arrived here.”
The two suspects – Prum Hean, 35, and Prum On, 20 – claimed they had not been involved in stealing the steel and had merely been hired by someone else to transport it, Sam Uk said.
“They pointed at others as they claim they were hired to transport this steel,” he said. “We are investigating [to see if] more people are responsible for this problem.”
He said the two suspects had been sent to the provincial court for questioning.
Officials at the court could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The 117-kilometre Kampot to Phnom Penh railway stretch – originally built in 1969 – reopened for freight on October 21, with provisional plans to add a passenger service at a later date.
The stretch, restored as part of a multi-million-dollar project to rejuvenate the Kingdom’s railways, was the first section to be reopened.
So Chea, Kampot provincial deputy governor, said he did not have information about the arrest, but called for those responsible for stealing the railway steel to receive a heavy sentence.
“They should be punished seriously according to the law because this is state property and for all people to use,” he said.