THREE children in Kampong Chhnang province drowned this week after falling into a large unmarked hole that filled with rainwater after being abandoned by a local clay merchant, officials said.
The deaths, discovered late Wednesday, prompted officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to review safety standards in areas where such holes are frequently abandoned after clay and dirt are extracted.
Nun Theary, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said yesterday that the ministry would launch an investigation into the matter.
“The ministry will explain to all land-digging businesses that they must put up a gate and signs to notify people about these holes in order to avoid accidents,” she said.
“It is a dangerous place for children to play, so it was a mistake for the owner not to put up some kind of notice.”
Sok Bunthon, director of the technical department of police in Rolea B’ier district, where the deaths occurred, said yesterday that police had briefly detained and questioned the clay merchant involved in Wednesday’s incident, 30-year-old Prosh Nov.
He identified the three victims as 10-year-old Keo Pich Chakriya, 11-year-old Vem Vatana and 13-year-old Vem Sovati.
“We are very concerned because accidents like this have happened in our village before,” he said, citing the example of two children who drowned in similar incidents in 2009.
“People in my village are careless. After they dig up land to sell, they do not put up gates or signs to warn people,” he said.
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the deaths could have been avoided. “Too many children have already died in these holes,” he said.
Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for Adhoc, said that his organisation had also received complaints about unmarked holes in Phnom Penh and in Kandal province.
He called on local authorities to be more vigilant in guarding against such accidents.