Workers Held Over Deadly Accident at Building Site

Six construction workers and a company manager have been detained by police for questioning after a woman was killed in Phnom Penh on Sunday by an iron bar that fell from the 12th story of a construction site as she drove past on her motorbike, police said.

Buth Vanny, 42, was driving with her son and his fiancee on the way back from buying items for the couple’s wedding when she was struck on the head by a two-meter-long iron bar that fell from a condominium tower that is part of Olympia City, a sprawling development near Olympic Stadium being built by the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC).

On Monday, deputy municipal police chief Brigadier General Chuon Narin said that six workers and a manager in charge of the building’s construction were arrested between Sunday evening and Monday morning and were being held for questioning at the Prampi Makara district police station.

“We have detained seven people in total, construction workers and a manager, because we need to establish why the iron bar fell from the building,” he said, adding that investigators went to Olympia City on Monday to examine the site.

Lieutenant General Chuon Sovann, chief of the municipal police, said he could not reveal the identities of those being questioned, as police had not yet determined the cause of the accident and who was responsible.

“We cannot identify anyone because we don’t know who is culpable yet, but we are gathering evidence in the case, and after questioning them, we will know,” he said.

Speaking by telephone while being held at the district police station, Keo Chan, the building’s manager, said a lawyer representing OCIC had gone to the police station to discuss an offer of compensation for Buth Vanny’s family.

“The lawyer for Canadia company went to meet district police to begin negotiations,” said Mr. Chan, who is employed by the Cana Sino Construction Corporation, which oversees construction at the Olympia City site.

OCIC was the parent company of Canadia Bank until 2007.

OCIC project manager Touch Samnang said he was busy and could not comment.

Buth Vanny’s son, Mao Veasna, said Monday that his family holds OCIC responsible for his mother’s death, but that representatives of the company had yet to get in touch with him.

“No one from the company has come to meet me yet. But I need them to take responsibility for my mom’s life and when we meet, I will ask for $100,000 in compensation,” said the 27-year-old, who was on the motorbike with his mother when the accident occurred.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said Monday that OCIC would not be allowed to settle the case out of court, as it needed to be made an example of for its clear breach of safety standards.

“The construction company and its workers should be held responsible for this incident, and according to my superiors, they will not be allowed to negotiate, so the case will be sent to the court,” he said.

“This accident happened because construction was protruding over a public road, so it needs to serve as a lesson to other developers.”

Cambodia is in the midst of a construction boom, but building laws and regulations still lag behind global standards. At a conference in October, Phuoeng Sophean, secretary of state at the ministry, said a law that would hold construction firms liable in the event of building accidents would be drafted by the end of next year.

(Additional reporting by Simon Henderson)

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