Parents of children who died in the October 13 sinking of a ferry in Loeuk Dek district, Kandal province, have urged authorities to take action against boat owners and workers whose “negligence” has sink the boat. However, they refrained from calling for their detention.
But Sovath, the 48-year-old father of a 13-year-old girl who died in the accident in Koh Chamroeun village of Kampong Phnom township, told the Post he wanted action taken against the main responsibles.
“We are not requiring the authorities to imprison the owners or operators of the vessel. We are simply asking them to accept their moral responsibility and put measures in place to ensure that no one else has to go through the same ordeal,” he said.
Heng Hun, the principal of Hun Sen Koh Chamroeun Elementary School, told the Post that his 11-year-old son, Heng Huy, was also a victim of the sinking, but survived by swimming to shore.
Citing his son’s accounts, he said the boat was carrying 15 students, along with 14 bicycles and a motorbike. As it left the shores of the village of Ambil Teuk and headed towards Koh Chamroeun, water spilled into the bow of the vessel. The students attempted to scoop out the water and redistribute their weight, but their rapid movement eventually forced more water into the hull, causing it to capsize. They were thrown into the river and the ship sank.
“The boat capsized, killing 11 students and terrifying four others. The boat was in poor condition and overloaded. Boat owners allowed an inexperienced worker to be in charge of their vessel when he was clearly not capable of responding to an emergency like this,” he said.
He noted that although his son and three other students survived the incident, the fear and shock of what they had experienced had severely affected them, mentally and emotionally.
“Their trauma, and the trauma of the families whose loved ones never returned from their night classes, demands that someone take responsibility,” he said.
“Accepting responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean they should be punished, but we do ask them to admit their mistakes. All of these economic operators must accept that a cavalier attitude towards the safety of others is unacceptable. Security measures must be improved and reinforced so that such a misfortune does not happen again,” he added.
Following the incident, provincial judicial officials, in cooperation with the district police chief, arrested two sibling owners of the boat – Chheng Vanna, 52, and Chheng Srey Neang, 69 – as well as the 15-year-old boat operator. ship, Thet Chanthy.
The provincial court prosecutor, however, released them on October 17 as part of an ongoing investigation, after two days of questioning, according to provincial police chief Chhoeun Sochet.
“The prosecutor has authorized the three suspects to temporarily return to their homes. This does not mean that they will not be charged – the case is proceeding according to legal procedures,” he said, noting that the case had been sent to court on October 18.
Provincial court spokesman Ek Sun Reaskmey confirmed to the Post that the prosecution received the case.
“That is now within our purview and is continuing,” he said.