Five Construction Workers Charged Over Woman’s Death

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday charged five construction workers with unintentional murder over a building site accident in which a woman was killed Sunday when an iron bar plummeted 12 stories and struck her on the head as she rode past on a motorbike.

Buth Vanny, 42, died instantly after being hit by the 2-meter-long bar, which 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).

Five workers were arrested, along with construction manager Keo Chan and engineer Tian Sing, on Sunday and Monday. Mr. Chan and Mr. Sing have been released without charge.

“I charged the five construction workers with unintentional murder,” deputy court prosecutor Keo Socheat said Wednesday. “[Mr. Chan and Mr. Sing] were not charged because they were not involved,” he said, adding that neither the construction manager nor the engineer were present at the construction site at the time of the accident.

Mr. Socheat said that the bar fell because of the workers’ carelessness.

“While they were working, they were moving some construction tools and the beam fell down,” he said.

On Tuesday, a senior engineer at Olympia City said the bar had been partially affixed to a wooden plank, but that recent rainfall had made the wood swollen and soft, causing the metal to become detached and fall.

Deputy municipal police chief Brigadier General Chuon Narin said Wednesday that the case is now in the hands of municipal Investigating Judge Heng Kesaro and that the five workers have been placed in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison.

Mr. Socheat, the deputy prosecutor, confirmed that OCIC has paid $60,000 in compensation to the victim’s family and said the court would not take legal action against the company.

David Welsh, country director at the U.S.-based Solidarity Center, which promotes workers’ rights, said the court’s handling of the case was just the latest example of impunity enjoyed by those overseeing construction projects in Cambodia.

“It speaks to the amazing lack of serious effort to hold those in power, either in the government or industry, accountable,” he said.

“The oversight in regards to worker safety in the construction sector is woeful, and now that lax approach has resulted in the death of a member of the public rather than a worker.”

(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)

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