Welders Sent to Court Over Toul Kork Bar Fire That Killed Three Staff

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Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Konlaeng Thmei bar in Toul Kork district’s Phsar Depot II commune on January 31, 2023. (Phnom Penh Fire Department Facebook page)
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Three welders were sent to court for allegedly causing a fire at a Tuol Kork bar last week that killed three people, National Police said.

The National Police posted on Sunday that they had arrested three welders for allegedly starting a fire at Konlaeng Thmei bar in Toul Kork district’s Phsar Depot II commune on January 31. The three suspects — Aun Vann, Aun Chanvo and Sok Krith — were sent to court for further questioning. 

Sim Piseth, the Toul Kork district police chief, said they had sent the case to the court. He declined to comment on the nature of the charges or how exactly the three were responsible for the fire.

Plang Sophal, a court spokesperson, refused to comment on Wednesday and said he would send VOD a response on Thursday.

At a noodle store near the bar, Sreng Kanha said the construction workers had been welding decorative metal pieces for the bar since January 27. On the 31st, she saw the welders working outside the bar and two chefs relaxing nearby.

Bar employees were asleep on an upper floor, she said.

She didn’t see how the fire started but she saw flames coming from across the road and the bar manager using a fire extinguisher to quell the fire.

“I was shocked to see that. I shouted loudly to other people around to come help and call the fire truck. And I asked them to help call out to the staff who were sleeping upstairs to get up.” 

Residents in the area used water hoses from their homes to try and put out the fire, but it did not work. “It was spreading too fast,” she said.

A few minutes later fire trucks arrived at the scene, and Kanha saw a man with severe burn injuries running out of the engulfed bar. She took him to the hospital but it was too late.

“He passed away in the early morning the next day at the hospital,” she said. 

The National Police said one woman and two men died in the fire, and that the three welders were not paying attention to their work and caused the fire.

Ton Ravy, Phsar Depot II’s police chief, said there was no time for workers on the upper floor to escape. He could not comment on whether the bar had any fire safety measures or if the three men had been charged by a prosecutor.

“Two of the three victims were found dead inside the room. One died from burn injuries and another died from smoke inhalation,” he said.

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