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Owners of collapsed Kep building post bail to avoid pre-trial detention

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Ek Sarun. Supplied

A Kampot Provincial Court official yesterday confirmed the owners of a building under construction that collapsed in Kep province posted an $87,000 bail to avoid pre-trial detention.

The court on Monday charged Ek Sarun and his wife Chhiv Sothy with manslaughter under Articles 207 and 236 of the Criminal Code after they were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province on Saturday.

On Friday, their seven-storey hotel under construction collapsed killing 36 people, including children, and injuring 23 others.

Mann Boret, spokesman for Kampot Provincial Court, yesterday said the couple is now under court supervision.

“They were charged with manslaughter and causing involuntary bodily harm,” Mr Boret said. “However, the judge decided to release them on bail and put them under court supervision.”

He said the couple promised to follow the conditions for bail and deposit money at the court.

“One of the condition is that they deposit 354 million riels [about $87,000] to the court as bail,” Mr Boret said. “They also need to regularly show up to the police and cannot leave the country.”

According to the law, manslaughter is defined as an act causing the death of another person through negligence, recklessness or carelessness, The charges carry a jail term of between one and three years and fine up to about $1,500.

Additionally, causing involuntary bodily harm is defined as causing an injury to another person through negligence, recklessness or carelessness. The charges carry a jail term of between six months and two years and a fine of up to about $1,000.

Mr Boret said the court is still investigating to find out whether others were involved with the deadly building collapse in the coastal province.

“The case has not ended yet and is in the hands of an investigating judge,” he said.

Mr Boret refuted local media reports that the duo was put in pre-trial detention at the provincial prison. Neither Sarun nor Sothy could be reached for comment yesterday.

Rescue team tries to look for workers buried beneath debris. KT/Chor Sokunhtea

Men Sothy, director of the Kep provincial health department, said that as of yesterday all survivors who were treated at the provincial referral hospital have returned home.

“I can say that they recovered quickly and we allowed them to return to their home provinces,” he said. “We treated them free of charge, and they also received support from the government.”

Ouk Oeun, 48, from Prey Veng province’s Preah Sdech district, who lost four family members during the collapse, including his four-month pregnant wife Chey Phon, 35, yesterday said that he and his 17-year-old daughter Lang Chanra returned home on Monday.

“We finished the funerals of our family members last night,” he said. “I am still in shock over what happened to my family.”

Mr Oeun said his family does not want to see the hotel owners convicted because only the contractor was responsible for the building’s construction.

“They know nothing about the safety and quality of the building because they handed over the project to the contractor,” he said. “If the court takes action again them, it is up to it.”

However, Mr Oeun said his family will discuss compensation from the hotel owner later.

Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, yesterday called the government and court to  conduct an in-depth investigation into the collapse.

“Regarding the court decision to release the duo [owners] on bail, I think it is the discretion of the investigating judge,” he said. “However, I call on the government to do a detailed and in-depth investigation into this case to find justice for the victims.”

“I think the government should take action against any company or contractor that allows construction workers to stay inside an under-construction building, to avoid bad incidents from happening,” Mr Kin added.

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