Press Briefing by Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Results of Search and Rescue Operation in the Collapsed 7-Floor Building at Kep Province [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

43 Hours Search and Rescue Operation

I am very saddened by loss of lives and I have regrets to have seen those injured in the collapsed building accident in the province of Kep. It is another bitter accident after we had the previous one at the province of Preah Sihanouk last year […] the search and rescue operation lasted 43 hours and 20 minutes before closing at 11:35 am today. We have exhumed the last body and checked that there has no more victims left in the rubble […] that the operation took a long time, 43 hours, because we adhered to two principles – firstly, we prioritized saving those who are still alive. Once there was sign of someone alive, we held all machines and figured out how to get him/her out as safe and best we could. Secondly, we respect the deceased body. We must guarantee that they were intact […]

Simultaneously Synchronized Efforts

I hope that this would explain our people as to why it has taken us a long time. However, from my observation, once the accident happened, our forces – not only from Kep province but also those from the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Kompot, Takeo, and other national institutions, the armed forces – have come to the site to simultaneously synchronize efforts. We also have medical teams and youth teams present and did whatever was required. They worked actively to recue lives and exhume bodies from rubble. There are 59 victims, 22 of which are women, and there included children too. Among the 36 deceased, 14 are female. There are 23 injured. It is quite unfortunate for our nation […]

Let me take this opportune moment to express my profound thanks to Their Majesties – HM the King and the Queen Mother – for their concerns and contributions through Samdech Chaohua Veang Kong Sam Ol to the Royal Government to provide to the victims. My thanks also go to the Senate, the National Assembly, and generous people for their donations. I have not appealed for financial help but they do it voluntarily. We have received a sum of 1.7 million USD. I have a special thank for our search and rescue teams whom I have trusted as the backbone of our national forces and I am proud of them.

The media, especially TVs have been active in broadcasting what is happening and going on here. I am sure that we must come up with more plans for training (of our search and rescue operation). I also thank the private sector who provided the operation with their machines and the Chinese experts working at the Preah Sihanouk province […] for the joint efforts to rescue our people […]

The Kep Governor and Officials Unremoved

It is an accident. Let me clarify to you. Once the collapse happened, some sent to my WhatsApp and Telegram accusing so and so about this and that and even recommended removals, while it was urgent to save lives […] let me clarify this to clear air to avoid suspicion that the Kep governor and officials will continue to be in office. I make this point because one political party leader asked a question what would happen to the governor of Kep since, for such accident in the province of Preah Sihanouk, the governor resigned […] building collapse does not happen only in Cambodia […] why do they call on us to remove so and so from offices? I may review some of our officials in the Royal Government for their comments […] aimed at urging me to remove the Kep governor from office. It is time for search and rescue […] some have focused too much on what the Royal Government and I or Samdech Krola Haom Sar Kheng would do to resolve this problem? There will be no such actions, let me clear the air.

Inspection Commission Set Up

[…] What happened in the province of Preah Sihanouk that the Governor resigned was a different matter. What I did was to move him to do a different job and to get someone to take over. You could have asked if for the engulfed (medieval cathedral Notre-Dame) church in Paris, the governor was required to resign? […] why do those people like “find others’ faults?” I may review my officials who commented in my WhatsApp and posted (improper comments) in Facebook (on the accidents) and reprimand them. I accepted to take their opinions for considerations but it is not the time to talk about that. We will have this inspection commission set up soon to investigate the collapse […]

As of now, the preliminary assessments has pinpointed two major technical shortcomings, though I am not trying to draw a conclusion on behalf of technicians (involved in the assessment). Firstly, as far as the construction goes, constructors do not abide by the architectural requirements. They have swapped to smaller steel bars […]. Secondly, as far as concrete floor is concerned, they had removed the wooden planks and rods from beneath earlier than conditioned […] to move to laying another floor up. The construction man died under the building together with his children, though. We could not hold anyone accountable here […] as far as I know the Police commission of Kep province has the owner of the building in custody and will send him to court […] to face with civil procedural case […]

I have noticed this moment of national spirit, except some people who have ill-will opinions […] that I have said all this is not because I wish to relieve responsibility or hide our weak points. I wanted our people on the other hand not to be extremists and resorting to insulting while lacking objective investigation […] I have no right to shut them up. It is their freedom but I have right to explain what should we do in time like this. For what happened here, the owner just got out of the building before it collapsed. He could have been dead too […]

Fearless Search and Rescue Teams

Some had insinuated my appointment of HE Yun Min, former governor of Preah Sihanouk province, to the post of Secretary of State for Defense […] for what happened in Preah Sihanouk province was not his fault, though it did happen in the territory under his supervision […] I am so proud of our people who worked days and nights in the operation. We are sad for what happened but we are proud of commitments of our forces – men and women working under fractured buildings and rubble […]

I decided yesterday to offer 10,000 USD for each injured person, except the last seven or so recued are to receive 10,000 USD each. For the family of each deceased would receive 50,000 USD and ten million Riel for funeral conduction. We will see if we have money left to help with families of the deceased as they have lost their supports […]

I am proud of quick reactions of our forces and my appreciation goes to General Kun Kim, assuming his duty as the first Vice President of the National Disaster Management Committee for his presence right on spot once the news came and his leadership of the operation before I arrived. We trust in our institutions.

As Khmers – Whoever, in Whatever Tendency, Should Help Each Other

I hope, in the near future, after the law on construction fully implemented, there would be less or no more accidents such as this. We have had our law on construction approved in the last two months or so, under which every construction company is required to have construction inspection from another company […] (responding to a question on Kem Sokha’s contribution) with regard to contributions, we welcome everyone. I have no information about his contribution. At this moment, whoever, in whatever tendency, as Khmer we should help each other. It is not time to go into dispute. If it was what you have said, I welcome Koeum Sokha’s attitude […] and I think what (you said) Keom Sokha did could be a correct move unlike some in the Royal Government. (According to you) he did not denounce the Royal Government but express his regret and pay condolence (to the victims) […]./.