Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Public demands accountability in ferry catastrophe

Public demands accountability in ferry catastrophe

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Funeral for the 11 students who drowned after their boat sank in Kampong Phnom commune’s Koh Chamroeun village of Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district on October 15. POLICE

Public demands accountability in ferry catastrophe

Three suspects involved in the sinking of a ferry that killed 11 students in Kandal province were temporarily released on October 17, while authorities continue to investigate the case.

Provincial police chief Chhoeun Sochet said the three suspects, two of them women, were summoned for questioning on October 15 after a ferry sank in Loeuk Dek district’s Kampong Phnom commune on October 13. The two women – Chheng Vanna, 52, and Chheng Srey Neang, 69 – are siblings who owned the vessel. The third, Thet Chanthy, 15, was the operator of the boat.

“The prosecutor has allowed them to return home temporarily. This does not mean that they will not be charged – the case is proceeding in accordance with legal procedures,” Socheat said.

Members of the public, civil society organisations and several politicians are paying close attention to the case, with some suggesting that the relevant local authorities also be held accountable.

Yim Sinan, who previously worked in South Korea, took to social media comparing the incident to one which occurred near Jindo, South Korea, nearly a decade ago.

“In 2014, the Sewol ferry from Incheon to Jeju sank in the sea near Jindo. Of the 476 passengers, only 172 survived. Prosecutors arrested the ferry owners and other stakeholders. Civil society and non-governmental parties demanded compensation and required the government to take full responsibility for the weaknesses of its leadership,” he wrote.

Sinan asked which officials would be brave enough to apologise and take responsibility. He likened it to the tragic stampede on Koh Pich, also known as Diamond Island, which claimed 353 lives during the Water Festival in Phnom Penh in 2010, when compensation of five million riel ($1,225) was paid to each family of the victims.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Labour Alliances and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said that at a glance, the boat owner was responsible for the deaths.

“But we need to look more deeply. Did the authorities require them to have safety equipment and was the boat inspected to ensure it met safety standards? If this was not the case, then members of the relevant authorities, from the village to the provincial level, should also be held accountable.

“If they allowed such a business to continue until the accident occurred, it is not right that the burden of the tragedy be put entirely on the business’ owners and operators,” he said.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn declined to comment on October 18, saying he was in a meeting.

Reached for comment on October 18, government spokesman Phay Siphan said: “We welcome criticism, but will not accept blame without a thorough investigation. We are working to meet the needs of all parents, schools and relevant institutions, to ensure the safety of all students and commuters.”

Regarding the comparison between the South Korean and Cambodian authorities, he said: “Cambodia is different from South Korea, especially in terms of income and compensation. We cannot compare the standards of the two nations.”

On October 17, Save the Children Cambodia called on institutions across the country to implement the Joint Framework on Safe Schools to ensure the safety of children both inside and outside of class, including their journeys between school and home.

In the aftermath of the incident, Loeuk Dek district authorities issued a directive requiring boat owners to provide flotation devices for all passengers. They now strictly prohibit overcrowding and the use of vessels which were not fit for purpose.


  • Ream base allegations must end, urges official

    A senior government official urges an end to the allegations and suspicions surrounding the development of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, now that Prime Minister Hun Manet has addressed the issue on the floor of the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78). Jean-Francois Tain, a geopolitical

  • Ministry taking steps over Thai ‘replica’ of Angkor Wat

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has dispatched experts to inspect the ongoing construction of a temple in Wat Phu Man Fah, located in Thailand’s Buriram province. This temple appears to be a replica of Cambodia’s renowned Angkor Wat. The ministry said

  • CP denied registration documents by ministry

    The Ministry of Interior will not reissue registration documents to the Candlelight Party (CP). Following a September 21 meeting between ministry secretary of state Bun Honn and CP representatives, the ministry cited the fact that there is no relevant law which would authorise it to do

  • PM to open new Siem Reap int’l airport December 1

    Prime Minister Hun Manet and Chinese leaders would jointly participate in the official opening of the new Chinese-invested Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport on December 1. The airport symbolises a new page in the history of Cambodian aviation, which will be able to welcome long-distance flights to

  • Minimum wage set at $204, after Sep 28 vote

    The minimum wage for factory workers in the garment, footwear and travel goods industries for 2024 has been decided at $204 per month, with the government contributing $2. Following several negotiation sessions, the tripartite talks reached an agreement during a September 28 vote, with 46 of 51 votes supporting the $202 figure.

  • Cambodian diaspora laud Manet’s UN Assembly visit

    Members of the Cambodian diaspora are rallying in support of Prime Minister Hun Manet’s forthcoming visit to the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) in the US’ New York City this week. Their move is an apparent response to a recent call by self-exiled former