Cambodia charges Chinese nationals over deadly building collapse

Cambodia charges Chinese nationals over deadly building collapse

A rescue team attempts to find the missing workers at a collapsed building in Sihanoukville
A rescue team attempts to find the missing workers at a collapsed building in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Jun 22, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

PHNOM PENH: A Cambodian court charged seven people on Tuesday (Jun 25), including five Chinese nationals, with involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy after 28 people died in a collapsed building on the weekend.

Some 26 people were injured after the Chinese-owned building collapsed on Saturday in the coastal town of Sihanoukville, prompting Prime Minister Hun Sen to fire a top disaster management official.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the seven-storey steel and concrete structure to crumple without warning before dawn, trapping construction workers who were sleeping on the site. The last two survivors were found on Monday.

The port and resort town has seen a rush of Chinese investment in recent years, especially in the casino, property and tourism sectors, and questions have been raised about construction standards.

On Tuesday, Chinese building owner Cheng Kun was charged with involuntary manslaughter, causing bodily harm and causing destruction of property, according to a court warrant seen by AFP.

Three other Chinese citizens - contractor Deng Xin Gui, site manager Xie Ya Ping and engineer Gao Yu - were accused as accomplices on all three offences.

"Now they are in jail provisionally," Lim Bun Heng, a court spokesman in Preah Sihanouk province, told AFP.

Another Chinese citizen, a Vietnamese man and a Cambodian landowner have also been charged as accomplices to manslaughter but remain on the run.

According to Cambodian law, all seven could face a three-year maximum sentence for manslaughter.

Hun Sen fired a top disaster management official on Monday for failing to take responsibility for the disaster and accepted the resignation of Yun Min, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province.

High-level resignations over wrongdoing are rare in Cambodia.

The accident has sparked a public debate about the nature of Chinese businesses in Cambodia, which critics say are allowed to operate without enough scrutiny.

Sihanoukville is home to Cambodia's largest port and a Chinese Special Economic Zone linked to Beijing's Belt and Road initiative.

Source: Reuters/zl