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Prey Veng drownings highlight unsafe boats

Prey Veng drownings highlight unsafe boats

TWO women died when a boat sank on the Mekong River in Prey Veng province on Friday, police said, the most recent of a string of such incidents throughout the Kingdom prompting officials to issue warnings about the dangers of overloading passenger boats and other vessels.

Seang Horn, deputy police chief of Preah Sdach district, said on Sunday that the boat was carrying 15 people and a tonne of unmilled rice – for a combined weight that greatly exceeded its intended capacity.

After the boat capsized in strong winds, Seang Horn said, 13 of the passengers managed to swim to safety with the assistance of local villagers. But the onlookers were unable to prevent Ros Sameth, 35, and In Samei, 25, from drowning.

“We are very sorry that the two women drowned, and that the people’s property was damaged,” he said.

“Since the incident, we have advised people to be careful driving [boats].”

Dim Dan, Prey Veng’s provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he agreed that the boat was carrying far too much weight, pointing in particular to the rice.

“Boats are loading as much as they can. They do not have a machine to weigh [the cargo] and can easily endanger themselves,” he said.

Boat owner Chan Tok could not be reached for comment on Monday, but Seang Horn said he had provided monetary compensation to the victims.

Cambodia has seen a spate of such incidents in recent months.

In Kratie province in October, a ferry measuring 8 metres in length that was crammed with 30 people and several motorbikes capsized on the Mekong, killing 17 people.

In February, another overloaded boat sank off the coast of Koh Kong province, killing seven. In that incident, 12 people were sitting in a boat built to carry just six individuals.

Um Samy, the governor of Prey Veng province, said more care had to be taken by authorities and captains in light of the latest incident.

“I ask for different authorities to educate boat owners and drivers to follow traffic, not to overload their boats and be careful with the wind,” he said.

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