Police Say Gas Cans Sparked Fire in Scavenger Slum

As residents began returning to the site of a fire that razed a slum of more than 30 houses last week in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, police said on Monday that exploding propane canisters sparked the blaze.

Tightly packed houses of plastic tarps and sheet metal caught fire rapidly, incinerating the community of 33 dwellings in Boeng Tompun commune in about an hour, said Meanchey district police chief Tang Sino.

“Our experts investigated the site of the fire incident, and we concluded that gas canisters had exploded to cause the accident,” Mr. Sino said.

District governor Pich Keo Mony said the slum—home to scavengers making a living by sorting through garbage for recyclables—could be rebuilt if the landowner agreed.

The commune chief has been assigned to help negotiate between the landowner and former residents, who were already erecting temporary shelters at the charred site, he said.

Ku Chankoma, the landowner’s son, said his mother was open to leasing the land to the former residents, “but there are a few conditions for the new contract,” he added, particularly relating to the slum’s reputation in the area as being riddled with crime and drug use.


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