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Families ‘pressured’ to take cash

Rowers talk to police on earlier this month in Phnom Penh after their boat was involved in a deadly accident during preparation for Water Festival.
Rowers talk to police on earlier this month in Phnom Penh after their boat was involved in a deadly accident during preparation for Water Festival. Hong Menea

Families ‘pressured’ to take cash

The families of two men who drowned after a cruise ship collided with their Water Festival racing boat claim they were pressured by the police to each accept $20,000 as compensation from Australian operator Cruiseco, well under the $35,000 they had initially demanded.

Two rowers – Chhoen Chorn, 36, and Sok Chan Chesda, 18 – were killed on November 11 after their boat was struck by the 223-foot Cruiseco Adventurer while they were practising for the Water Festival races.

According to Chesda’s father, Sim Samphors, the victims’ families had met with police officers in the capital’s Daun Penh district on Sunday and accepted the $20,000 compensation because it was “difficult” due to the police “helping the company to push for the amount”.

“I did not know why the naval police came to negotiate the price and tried to protect the company. It made me crazy,” he said, adding that the police had initially offered only $15,000. “I was upset and decided to take the money and go home.”

Prek Thmey commune police chief Ly Vantheng, who headed the negotiation, said the case was considered closed “because the families have accepted the $20,000”.

“They wanted to end this,” he said. “If they don’t accept, the case will be brought to court.”

Representatives of Cruiseco in Australia could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, in Kampot province, a meeting was held by authorities on Monday to discuss the operations of tour boats, a week after four were killed when an overloaded boat ran into a sandbar and sank. “[Authorities] will conduct checks on the boats . . . [they must] have licences,” said provincial spokesman Sim Vuthea.

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