Building Work Halted as Workers Face Charges Over Accident

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday will charge six construction workers and a company manager in connection with a building site accident that killed a woman on Sunday, while work on the site has been suspended on government orders, officials said Tuesday.

Buth Vanny, 42, died after being struck on the head by an iron bar that fell from an apartment block under construction in Olympia City, a sprawling development near Olympic Stadium in Prampi Makara district being built by the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC). The workers and manager were arrested on Sunday and Monday over the incident.

Deputy municipal prosecutor Keo Socheat said that five of the suspects appeared before the court Tuesday, and that he questioned three of them. Although questioning is scheduled to continue today, Mr. Socheat said he planned to lay charges against all seven suspects, although he declined to specify the crime they would be charged with.

“I received only five [suspects] and questioned three of them, I don’t know where the other two are. Tomorrow, I will question the others before charging them,” he said.

He added that the victim’s family had already been paid compensation by OCIC for her death, but that this would not affect the legal process. Mr. Socheat said he did not know how much money the family had received.

One of the men who did not appear at court Tuesday was Keo Chan, the building manager, who said last night that he was released Tuesday evening after lawyers representing OCIC paid his bail.

The other suspect who did not appear at court after being freed was 48-year-old Chinese engineer Tian Sing, according to a Prampi Makara district police officer working on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

He named the five construction workers arrested alongside the manager and Chinese engineer as Chem Chhun, 21; Chem Thoeut, 23; Lon Sam Ol, 36; Khuon Vichea, 20, and So Savay, 24, all Cambodians.

He said that district police had sent the suspects to court with the recommendation that they be charged with manslaughter.

“They are all accused of manslaughter,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, work on the Olympia City condominium buildings was suspended until further notice, according to Lao Tep Seiha, deputy director general of the Land Management Ministry’s construction department.

“The ministry has suspended construction until the company has introduced the precautions that [the] ministry has put forward,” he said.

A senior engineer at Olympia City who spoke on condition of anonymity said the accident occurred because the 2-meter-long iron bar that hit Buth Vanny had been partially fastened to a wooden plank, and that rain on the morning of the accident caused the wood to soften and the bar to become dislodged and fall. He added that the correct safety nets, which would have stopped the bar from falling into the road, were not used.

“The construction is good, but these buildings should have slanted nets, along with vertical nets. The company ought to be held responsible for that,” he said.

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