Seven girls between the ages of 6 and 13 drowned when the wooden boat carrying them sank yesterday morning in Preah Sihanouk province’s Boeung Prek Tup lake.
Sihanoukville Commune 3 police chief Khiev Vutha said that the seven children came from Phoum Mouy village. “A boy, Thorn Chanvy, 13, and a girl, Meng Srey Nhang, 8, survived because a [foreign] tourist spotted and rescued two of them, though the other five had disappeared already,” said Vutha.
Vutha said that after being rescued, Chanvy told authorities that he and eight other children had gone to the lake to pick lotus when they spotted a boat on the shore. The children decided to climb in and row out, but noticed the boat was leaking only too late.
The boat sank before they could return, taking the seven children with it.
“Our commune has never experienced a case claiming children’s lives like this before,” he said, blaming the “carelessness of their parents”.
Village chief Puth Savan, however, said that he couldn’t fault the families. “I cannot blame the parents and guardians, because they are poor and they do not have time to take care of their children,” he said.
Survivor Srey Nhang’s mother, Leng Leang, said she worked as a dishwasher and did not have time to look after her children. Leang lost another daughter and two nieces in the accident.
“I asked my oldest daughter, ‘Why did you not take care of your sisters?’” Leang said. “When the boat sank, she screamed for help, but by the time the villagers knew, it had disappeared.”
Yesterday afternoon, village and commune authorities held a collective funeral with food and financial support from the Cambodian Red Cross in Preah Sihanouk, Savan said.