Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has ordered officials to conduct inspections of all ferry and passenger vessels across the country and expedite the issuance of draft laws related to inland water transport to prevent accidents.

The order was issued at an October 27 press conference on the five year achievements of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, held at the Office of the Council of Ministers. It also came after a recent sinking of a ferry in Koh Chamroeun village, Kampong Phnom commune, Leouk Dek district, Kandal province, claiming the lives of 11 students.

“Cars, trucks and buses are subject to inspection, but no such regulations are in place for the vessels which ply the Kingdom’s waterways,” he said.

He acknowledged that the ferry sinking in Koh Chamroeun village was partly the fault of ministry officials, as no inspection had been carried out.

“Our officials were negligent. As we do not have a law in place yet, we should guide them. Therefore, I would ask Ieng Veng Sun, secretary of state in charge of promoting the Water Transport and Port Laws, to expedite his work. At the same time, officials should inspect each vessel and advise the owners and about what safety standards are required,” he said.

Each boat must be strong, free from leaks, and must have flotation devices for all passengers. Care must be taken not to overload them, he added.

Resident of Koh Chamroeun village But Sovath, 48, father of 13-year-old Sovath Leakena who died in the October 13 sinking, was pleased to hear that inspections had been ordered.

“These measures are an excellent idea. If every boat owner has enough lifejackets for passengers, than even if there is a sinking, the passengers will likely survive,” he told The Post.

Khiev Samphorn, 60, who is now the sole ferry operator in Koh Chamroeun, told The Post that he has 20 floatation devices for his passengers, and his boat is safe and strong. Although it can carry up to four tonnes of cargo, he will carry no more than 15 passengers, along with motorcycles and bicycles.

“The success of my business depends on their safety, so I urge them to don lifejackets when they board my boat,” he said.