Justice evades victims of Kep building collapse a year after

The Building and Woodworkers Trade Union of Cambodia (BWTUC) on 3 January expressed disappointment over the government’s slow action in responding to the public’s demand for justice and accountability regarding the collapse of a building in Kep, Southern Cambodia a year ago which killed 36 workers and injured 26 more. 

“It has been a year since the tragedy, but the wheels of justice grind slow to hold accountable all those responsible for this totally avoidable incident,” BWTUC President Sok Kin lamented. 

Kin said that the government blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for slowing down the court proceedings. However, he observed that the government-appointed prosecutor was reluctant to put the full weight of the law against the Kep project developer despite the incident happening barely six months after a building collapsed in Sihanoukville, killing at least 18 people. 

BWTUC also said that the victims’ families haven’t received any compensation. “We are disgusted that a year after the incident, the families of the victims have not received any form of compensation from the building project developer, whose only brush with the law was when they were detained for 24 hours for questioning, BWTUC Vice President Chhlonh Sou said during a live telecast last Sunday marking the first year of the tragic incident. 

BWTUC also decried the government’s initiative to ask the private sector to donate to a compensation fund for the victims of the building collapse, as well as attempts by public officials to convince the victims’ families not pursue charges in exchange for cash assistance. 

“This is an incomprehensible course of action. Compensation should be primarily shouldered by the building project developer,” Kin said. 

“Compensation is an important part in exacting accountability. However, It is not the be-all and end-all of delivering justice. It doesn’t restrain the government from pursuing all those responsible for the deadly building collapse and is not a band-aid solution to cover up the lack of workers’ rights in Cambodia,” Sou stressed.