Group Questions Stalled Fire Probe, Cleanup

A stalled investigation into the fire that reduced a four-story garment factory to ashes in Phnom Penh last month has left members of the labor community wondering who is responsible for clearing the rubble.

“We want to know why no in­vestigation has been conducted and why the building is not touched,” said Garment Manu­fac­turers Association in Cambo­dia representative Ray Chew. “We’re not sure who has jurisdiction on this investigation.”

Piles of debris were still smoking Sunday afternoon, nearly two weeks after an electrical fire torched Grandtex International Ltd on May 21.

Ker Soksidney, adviser to the Labor Minister, said the fire was a unique case for Cambodia that has left many confused. “I don’t know who is the right authority to do that [investigation]. I don’t know if it’s the Ministry of Fi­nance, Industry or Labor,” he said.

Some say the delayed cleanup is the onus of its missing owner, a Taiwanese businessman. Chew said the owner must answer questions about the blaze and cleanup efforts but has been unreachable since being hospitalized for in­juries suffered during the fire.

A factory representative re­fused to comment Sunday.

Chak Angre Krom commune Chief Chea Sokhay said last week the factory has prevented police from removing debris.

Meanchey district Deputy Governor Em Sokleang, director of the factory’s investigative committee, said it is the responsibility of the factory owner, not the po­lice, to clear the site. But two meet­ings he scheduled with the factory owner last week were canceled.

You San, the factory’s landlord, said he will remove the debris once he receives insurance money. Kont Khan, an Indochine In­surance claims manager, said the insurance agent will not facilitate the payment of approximately $5.6 million until it receives building plans and other required documents from the owner.

The delay is making some workers’ groups nervous. Al­though a factory administrator last week reported 13 injuries and no deaths, Cambodian Union Federation President Choun Mom Thol said Sunday he be­lieved that people were trapped beneath the debris.

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