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Siem Reap pagoda tragedy case sent to court, suspects not identified

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The collapse, which happened on December 2, claimed the lives of three people and injured 13 others. APSARA NATIONAL AUTHORITY

Siem Reap pagoda tragedy case sent to court, suspects not identified

The provincial police said on Wednesday that the case regarding the collapse of a dining hall in Siem Reap province’s Prasat Kokchak pagoda earlier this month had been forwarded to court following a failure to identify persons responsible for the incident.

Provincial deputy police chief Phoeng Chenda Reth told The Post on Wednesday that the case had been sent to court on December 9 without any identified suspects because police officers could not determine the cause of the collapse.

“We did not include any name in the report that we sent to court because we had not been able to identify any suspect.

“Police are not experts in construction, so we sent the matter to court as it has the authority to ask the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to examine the case,” said Chenda Reth.

The collapse, which happened on December 2, claimed the lives of three people and injured 13 others.

Some of the injured victims had already left the hospital, said Chenda Reth, while 52-year-old construction manager Yath Phoeung who suffered serious injuries was sent abroad for further medical care.

Chenda Reth noted that Phoeung, as the manager, could be held responsible for the fatal collapse.

Provincial court spokesman Yin Srang said the court’s administrative section had received the case, which will be sent to a prosecutor.

According to legal procedures, once the case is received by a prosecutor, he or she will be able to launch an investigation, and summon victims and those involved to testify in court, said provincial prosecutor Ream Chan Mony.

It may take the prosecutor a longer time to investigate and identify the persons responsible for the collapse, he said, adding that if the persons responsible are dead, the case will be closed.

Sou Lida, the brother-in-law of Ly Samnang, an engineer and one of the victims who died in the incident, said the deceased was not in charge of the dining hall’s construction but was only asked by a monk to help supervise in laying concrete slabs for the hall.

Lida said the pagoda monks spearheaded the construction and hired the workers themselves.

He further noted that the hall had been under construction for years but was temporarily halted due to lack of funds. The pillars, beams and scaffolding had been built a few years ago before the concrete slab was laid on December 2.

“The scaffolding had also been built a long time ago. Samnang took the scaffolding from his company to support the concrete slab. But I didn’t know all the pillars collapsed with him,” said Lida.

Lida said that Samnang, 33, left behind two daughters and an unborn child. His family decided not to file a complaint against anyone because they considered the collapse to be an accident.

On Wednesday, the chief monk of Prasat Kokchak pagoda said the monks were not available for interview as they were busy organising a ceremony.

Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC) president Sok Kin said justice is failing the victims because the case had been forwarded to court without anyone being charged.

“In this case, without a lawyer or representative for the victims, justice will be elusive,” said Kin.

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