A Siem Reap deputy governor on Monday said the collapse of a pier that caused 30 tourists to plunge into a Tonle Sap lake tributary was not “a big problem,” while tour operators and others called for a guarantee of safety in the country’s main tourist town.
Deputy Provincial Governor Oum Mara said the steel pier, which is used by visitors departing and returning from boat trips on the lake, collapsed Sunday because the nuts and bolts holding it together were not fastened properly. He downplayed the significance of the incident.
“It is not a big problem. The [operator, Sou Ching] company, will fix the pier to a better quality…. Then it will continue to operate,” he said Monday by telephone before declining to comment further.
A Sou Ching representative could not be reached for comment Sunday or Monday.
Several tour operators said they will avoid the pier unless safety is ensured.
“If the pier doesn’t have good quality, it will break again and tourists will be injured. They will stop visiting,” said Phum Lai, president of the Tourism Boat Association of Chong Khneas.
Though on Sunday Phum Lai said there were no injuries sustained by the 30 visitors who plunged into the water from a height of 2.5 meters when the pier collapsed, on Monday he said that seven tourists scratched their legs and some lost possessions.
Siem Reap provincial tourism police chief Sam Siyan, however, contradicted that report Monday, saying that no one was injured or lost items.
Choup Lorn, manager of Diethelm Travel Cambodia in Siem Reap, said his company will not use the pier for now.
“What we need after the investigation—if they want travel agents to use it—is they have to give a guarantee of security,” he said.
Still, he said with tourism being such a large part of the economy, he doubted authorities or the company would allow the mistake to happen again.
Hout Kheang, manager of Asian Trails of Siem Reap, noted how lucky Sou Ching is that there were no deaths or serious injuries.
“What happened can be a good lesson to show to the government about safety,” Hout Kheang said.
He didn’t expect the accident to scare tourists this time, but a second accident would create a pattern and hurt business, he said.