The parents of the children who died in an October 13 ferry sinking in Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district urged authorities to take action against the boat owners and workers whose “negligence” caused the boat to sink. They stopped short of calling for their detention, however.
But Sovath, the 48-year-old father of a 13-year-old girl who perished in the accident in Kampong Phnom commune’s Koh Chamroeun village, told The Post that he wanted to see action taken against anyone most responsible.
“We do not demand that the authorities jail the owners or operators of the vessel. We simply call on them to accept moral responsibility, and for measures to be implemented to ensure that no one else will have to go through the same ordeal,” he said.
Heng Hun, the principal of Hun Sen Koh Chamroeun Primary School, told The Post that his 11-year-old son Heng Huy was also a victim of the sinking, but had survived by swimming to shore.
Citing his son’s accounts, he said the boat was carrying 15 students, along with 14 bicycles and a motorcycle. As it departed from the banks of Ambil Teuk village and headed towards Koh Chamroeun, water poured into the bow of the vessel. The students attempted to bail the water out and redistribute their weight, but their rapid movement ultimately caused more water to enter the hull, causing it to capsize. They were thrown into the river and the vessel sank.
“The boat capsized, killing 11 students and terrifying four others. The boat was in bad condition and overloaded. The boat owners allowed an inexperienced worker to be responsible for their vessel, when clearly he was not capable of responding to an emergency situation like this one,” he said.
He noted that although his son and three other students survived the incident, the fear and shock of what they had been through had severely affected them, mentally and emotionally.
“Their trauma, and the trauma of the families whose loved ones never returned from heir evening classes, demands that someone take responsibility,” he said.
“Accepting responsibility does not necessarily mean they must be punished, but we ask that they admit their mistakes. All such business operators need to accept that a cavalier attitude to the safety of others is unacceptable. Safety measures must be improved and enforced so that such a misfortune never happens again,” he added.
In the wake of the incident, provincial judicial officials, in cooperation with the district police chief, detained two siblings who owned the boat – Chheng Vanna, 52, and Chheng Srey Neang, 69 – along with the 15-year-old operator of the vessel, Thet Chanthy.
The provincial court prosecutor, however, released them on October 17 amid an ongoing investigation, following two days of questioning, according to provincial police chief Chhoeun Sochet.
“The prosecutor has allowed the three suspects to return home temporarily. This does not mean that they will not be charged – the case is proceeding in accordance with legal procedures,” he said, noting that the case was referred to court on October 18.
Provincial court spokesman Ek Sun Reaskmey confirmed to The Post that the prosecution had received the case.
“It’s now within our jurisdiction and is proceeding,” he said.