Court Charges Five Over Massive Market Fire

The Stung Treng Provincial Court on Monday charged a goldsmith, three security guards and the manager of a market in Stung Treng City for negligence that contributed to the outbreak of a fire that gutted the market on Thursday, causing an estimated $1 million in damages.

The blaze started at about 10 p.m. inside the Thmar market on Thursday, tearing through 1,220 stalls and shops over the course of five hours before firefighters from three provinces could bring it under control.

Deputy provincial police chief Horm Bunthel said on Monday that security guards Ros Saroeun, Chhoam Chamroeun and Chhoam Sopheak, market manager Lim Yung and goldsmith Heng Map were arrested at various locations across Stung Treng City on Sunday afternoon and taken in for questioning by provincial police.

On Monday, they were sent to the provincial court, charged with criminal negligence leading to property damage and provisionally detained at the provincial prison, Mr. Bunthel said.

He explained that Mr. Map, the goldsmith, had accidentally started the fire while melting down platinum earlier in the day, spilling some of the metal onto a soft surface where it smoldered for several hours until the fire broke out.

“We arrested the goldsmith as a suspect because we concluded that the fire started from a small fire when he burned the platinum…and was careless,” he said.

The three security guards had not been carefully patrolling the market that night, making it easier for the fire to spread, he added, while the manager was taken into custody because he was responsible for the safety of vendors and security of the premises.

The market is privately managed by businessman Sa Leang, who could not be reached for comment.

Provincial police on Friday estimated that the fire resulted in property losses of about $1 million. Men Kong, a spokesman for the provincial government, said on Monday that an investigating team comprised of police, military police and provincial authorities had yet to determine the full scale of the destruction.

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