Boat Owner, Captain Charged Over Drownings

The owner and captain of a Kampot City tourist boat that sank on Monday night, leaving four people dead in the Toek Chhou River, were charged with unintentional murder on Thursday, a court official said.

The owner, Sok Lim, 44, was charged for allowing too many passengers onto the boat, said Ek Chheng Huot, chief prosecutor of the Kampot provincial court. The boat’s skipper, Ros Smann, 50, was also charged on Thursday in absentia, he said.

“[Mr. Lim] is the one who was in charge of selling the tickets and deciding the number of passengers,” Mr. Chheng Huot said, adding that he had been placed in provisional detention.

Mr. Smann was still missing after swimming to shore and fleeing on foot when the two-story tourist boat struck the riverbed and sank at about 9:00 p.m. on Monday night, according to police.

“He is still at large, so we charged him in absentia,” Mr. Chheng Huot said. Authorities were still searching for Mr. Smann, according to provincial penal police officer Eam Chandara.

If found guilty, both men face one to three years in prison and a fine of 2 to 6 million riel, or about $500 to $1,500.

Provincial police chief Mao Chanmathurith said on Tuesday he suspected the boat had been carrying between 70 and 80 Cambodian tourists on a firefly cruise, which likely overloaded the vessel.

Provincial authorities on Wednesday temporarily banned boat operations on the river and formed a committee consisting of local and provincial police officials in order to ensure the safety of vessels and proper limits on the number of passengers.

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