Five Men to Stand Trial for $1M Stung Treng City Market Fire

About 100 vendors gathered on Tuesday outside the Stung Treng Provincial Court to protest judicial inaction against a group of men charged with causing a fire that destroyed the market where they worked last month.

They had their wishes answered when Stung Treng Provincial Court director Eang Kimthol immediately announced that a trial date had been set for the men: a goldsmith, a trio of security guards and a market manager charged with negligence over the April 7 fire at Thma Market in Stung Treng City.

“More than 100 vendors protested on Tuesday at our court because they wanted to know how the lawsuit was going, and for this case—it’s two cases—we will have a trial on June 13 for the five defendants,” he said, explaining that there was a separate civil case.

“We need to finish this criminal case, and then we will work on the civil case, so the court will summon the market investors over the lawsuit to ask about the compensation,” Mr. Kimthol said.

“Last month, the investigating judge decided to bail out one of them, who was the manager.”

The goldsmith is alleged to have inadvertently set fire to the market while melting platinum, and the guards and manager are accused of negligently allowing it to spread. The ensuing fire burned for five hours, gutting some 1,220 stalls and causing an estimated $1 million in damage.

In the separate civil case, the vendors are demanding compensation from the businessman running the market at the time of the fire, Sa Leang, who also owns markets in neighboring Ratanakkiri province.

Stung Treng provincial spokesman Men Kong said Mr. Leang’s contract to run the market had since been canceled, and that the state would take over.

“We can’t say anything about the compensation. We will let the courts decide whether to compensate or not,” he said.

Suth Ratana, a vendor who lost her business in the blaze, said victims needed action fast.

“Our goods were destroyed. We need compensation soon in order to buy merchandise,” Ms. Ratana said.

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