Municipal fire emergency police are investigating a 5am blaze on Sunday that razed at least 20 homes in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. No one was injured.
Chheang Phanara, deputy municipal police chief in charge of fire emergencies, told The Post that his men are as yet unsure what caused the fire at Boeung Tompun II commune.
“We are investigating to ascertain the cause of the fire. But at this time we are unable to confirm anything,” he said.
Khun Leng, Boeung Tompun II commune police chief, said the fire started at a home of a man identified as Sambath Chantharith, 26. Chantharith is married to Lou Sokphy, but she and their two children reside elsewhere.
“After the fire, we called the homeowner for questioning, but he also does not know the cause as he left his house in the early hours of Sunday to sell his motorbike,” he said.
Leng said the 20 28-square-metre wooden homes that were destroyed involved 31 families.
Ul Sophat, 61, whose family home was burned down, said Chantharith was often not at home. He said Chantharith’s home was not connected to the electricity grid and that he often asked to link to neighbours’ homes so that he and friends had light to drink by.
At about 5am, Sophat said, they noticed the fire coming from the home and everyone, including Chantharith, ran out of their homes in a panic.
“We are victims and want him to confess and apologise because we all are Cambodians,” he said, adding that he did not believe Chantharith started the fire intentionally.
“If he had an intention to burn down his home, he would have run away after the fire. But he appeared to be in genuine shock.”
Another victim, Nub Reaskmey, 29, insisted police arrest Chantharith.
“[Chantharith and his friends] would drink beer until midnight and caused problems for others. Thankfully, only properties were destroyed, and no one was killed. But we are victims and would disagree with the authorities if he is not prosecuted,” he said.