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Hun Sen defends firefighters after factory inferno

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Smoke rises from the debris of a fire which destroyed a mattress factory in the capital on Friday. KT/Pann Rachana

Prime Minister Hun Sen has defended firefighters criticised online for failing to prevent the destruction of a mattress factory in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Fire engulfed Heng Heng’s mattress factory located in Boeng Tompun I commune in Meanchey district in the afternoon. Firefighters intervened and managed to stop the fire the next day, but it has been estimated that the fire caused $3.5 million in damages.

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said firefighters were only able to control the fire after they decided to destroy one of two buildings located within the factory’s complex.

Following the news of the fire, the government was criticised on social media for failing to timely intervene.

In a recording obtained by Khmer Times yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said firefighters tried their best to put out the fire.

“It was more difficult than putting out a house fire,” he said. “Every place is different, they should understand this.”

Mr Hun Sen said even developed countries like the United States and Brazil have problems putting out fires.

“In the US, how many places are there where they cannot intervene in a forest fire?” he said. “The problem has been happening every year.”

“There are forest fires in many places and they cannot intervene,” Mr Hun Sen added. “If you want us to blame Cambodian authorities, you should blame French authorities – who are more professional than us but cannot defend their national heritage [Notre-Dame]. So please don’t blame our officials.”

He then called online critics “extremists” and called on online users to understand the situation.

“If they do nothing to intervene, you can blame them, but they were trying their best. We even used a helicopter [to put out the fire],” Mr Hun Sen said. “We were not able to do so because there were many pieces of cotton inside the buildings.”

“They work hard day and night – even rich countries cannot put out fires,” he added. “Please, people, understand the difficulties. Those who live outside of the country always look down on the efforts of officials.”

City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey yesterday said dozens of firetrucks were deployed to put out the fire and that private companies also helped.

“We used no less than 50 fire trucks to intervene,” Mr Measpheakdey said. “As a result, no one died during the incident. We decided to demolish those buildings after the fires were put out.”

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