Fifty Homes Burn in Brothel District; Arson Suspected

A day after a fire destroyed roughly 50 homes in the Srah Chak commune in Don Penh district, authorities said Sunday they are searching for a suspect who might have started the blaze.

Police said the fire started in a massage parlor situated in the middle of the devastated area, but they are still unclear if it was sparked deliberately.

“The suspect we are looking for escaped. Now we try to find him,” said district Deputy Police Chief Sam Sakhon, who indicated the man might manage prostitutes.

“We need to determine if it was on purpose or an accident with the stove or the electricity,” Sam Sakhon said.

The Saturday blaze claimed no lives and caused just two injuries, police said. One man was badly hurt when a roof where he was perched collapsed. He was taken to Calmette Hospital, Cambodian Red Cross officials said.

The blaze started around 5 pm and burned for two hours while firefighters contained it at the perimeters. Despite a brisk wind, authorities were able to keep the blaze from spreading too far.

Although the fire certainly is not the first in the area, notorious for its massage parlors, brothels, and karaoke clubs, Saturday’s was the farthest a blaze has spread in the densely populated quarter, residents said.

Sifting through the charred rubble that once was her home, Ho Peou recalled how she smell­ed something burning while she watched TV and then found herself face to face with the blaze.

“By the time I opened the windows and looked outside, it was too late. I only had time to save my children,” said Ho Peou, 39, a mother of three.

As young boys heaped together melted cyclos and chairs for scrap metal, residents, like the police, said the fire started in a massage parlor.

“I moved here in the beginning, when there were no prostitutes,” said Nget Kong, 40, clutching a tarp that likely will provide his shelter. “I wanted to move away, but no one would buy my house. Now, it doesn’t matter because I have nothing.”

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