Tourists Fall Into River as New Pier Collapses

Thirty foreign tourists in Siem Reap province fell 2.5 meters be­fore plunging into a Tonle Sap tributary after the newly constructed concrete pier they were standing on collapsed Sunday, according to officials.

No one was injured in the incident, which happened while the tourists were lining up for a tour of the Tonle Sap lake, said Phum Lai, president of the Tourist Boat Association of Siem Reap district’s Chong Kneas commune.

“They were afraid, and they went back to their guesthouses,” he said.

Phum Lai blamed Sou Ching, the company that constructed the pier and began using it last week, for not ensuring the safety of the tourists. He added that his association’s 220 members will temporarily use an older port 1 km away from the site of the accident.

Sou Ching representatives could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Chong Kneas commune chief Em Man worried about the effect the accident might have on locals, 15 percent of whom rely on tourists for their income.

“I am afraid the tourists won’t come here now,” he said, adding that he didn’t know if Sou Ching would face any consequences for the collapse.

Siem Reap Provincial Governor Sou Phirin and several deputy governors could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Sou Ching has made several renovations to the area, including improved roads, and had begun allowing boaters to try the pier out last week, Phum Lai said.

But with the good roads and its system of busing tourists to its pier, Phum Lai said, Sou Ching is trying to take control of the area’s tourist ferrying industry. This has turned up pressure on boat association members, he said.

On Dec 3, more than 100 boat owners protested at the pier complaining about Sou Ching’s plans to sell tickets directly to tourists and raise prices from $6 to $10, he said. That threatens the jobs of ticket sellers employed by the boat association and the high prices could drive away tourists, Phum Lai said.

“We want everything to work as it did before,” he said.

In an interview Thursday, Va Chhou Da, director-general of the Sou Ching port, said that boaters are free to not use his company’s facilities but stand to make more money if they do.

 

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