Governor Says Destroyed Siem Reap Market Will Not Be Rebuilt

The Siem Reap City governor said on Monday that he would not allow a popular night market to be rebuilt after a deadly fire on Saturday razed it to the ground.

The blaze, which authorities have said was started by an electrical fault, killed eight people—including four children aged between 8 and 13—and injured two others.

The fire destroyed more than 100 market stalls and caused about $1 million in damages. Witnesses complained that fire fighters, who have been accused of asking for money before they made attempts to extinguish the flames, did not act quickly enough.

The eight who died, members of two families, were unable to escape their home above the market.

“We cannot allow them to rebuild the market because this location is only suitable for housing, it’s too narrow for market stalls,” governor Tep Bun Chhay said.

The cramped layout of the market was dangerous because it had made it difficult for victims to escape and harder for fire fighters to put out the flames, he said.

Mr. Bun Chhay also said that the owner of the market should be liable to compensate stall owners who had lost their stock.

“The market owner must be responsible for what was damaged, even though the market was set on fire by accident,” he said.

But according to Huy Leng—who rents the market space from its owner and leases out stalls to vendors—the landlord was among the eight dead.

“I don’t have the ability to pay [compensation to the vendors] because the damage is huge,” said Mr. Leng, adding that he would offer vendors a year’s free tenancy in another night market nearby.

“I’m very regretful, I’m shocked,” he said. “I’m very weak and now I’m almost unconscious from this.”

One vendor, Leang Hong, said he was still deciding what to do, but said he did not blame Mr. Leng for the fire.

“I think that the fire happened by chance, it is not his fault,” he said.

Deputy Siem Reap City police chief Mok Sam On said that Hour Sokvatha, 14, who was taken to the Siem Reap Kantha Bopha hospital after he was injured in the fire, had now recovered.

“[Sokvatha] is better, but the other victim [his brother Hour Sokvuthy, 17] was sent to Vietnam. I don’t know [about his condition],” he said.

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