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19 Killed in Commuter Van Head-on Collision

Morn Savein, 32, is seriously injured at Calmette hospital while her sister, Morn Savon, sadly passed away from the collision.
Morn Savein, 32, is seriously injured at Calmette hospital while her sister, Morn Savon, sadly passed away from the collision.

A horrific accident in Svay Rieng province has claimed the lives of 19 garment factory workers—the latest victim having succumbed in a hospital on Thursday.

Twenty people were injured in the crash, after the bus’s driver tried to overtake another vehicle, colliding head on with the van carrying 38 passengers.

The accident underscores the dangers of Cambodia’s roads, as traffic increases with little regard for or enforcement of traffic laws, often on poorly maintained and narrow highways.

The workers, mostly women, had crammed into the van to be delivered to a special economic zone in the province, where they worked. Some of them were related to each other.

Svay Rieng court prosecutor Hing Bunchea says the driver of the bus, Le Vang Tung, 43, has been charged for driving without a license and for causing the death of others. He is in detention and faces up to five years in prison if convicted. The two men who tried to remove the bus company logo were also charged by the court for tampering with evidence.

The transportation company, 15 SH, which operated the bus, could not be reached for comment.

Workers in the crash continued to be treated at Svay Rieng’s provincial hospital and Calmette Hospital, in Phnom Penh.

One of the victims, Yin Sokha, 32, told VOA Khmer she had not known there was an accident, but had woken up in the hospital. Her right arm was broken in the crash. Her younger sister, Yin Somaly, 24, was also in the vehicle. She sustained injuries to her chest, shoulders and head.

Yin Sokha said her boss, whose factory produces clothing for Adidas, had come to see her. “They told me that once I am well, I can go back to work,” she said. “They told me not to worry.”

Morn Sovein, also injured in the crash, was not as lucky as Yin Sokha. Her sister, Morn Savon, was killed in the collision. “I got a call yesterday from my family, telling me that my sister died,” she said. “She died instantly at the scene.”

Khut Sam Eng, 43, was tending to her son at the hospital, as well as her nephew. Two of her nieces died in the crash, she said. She told VOA Khmer that she has yet to decide if her family is going to file suit in the courts.

Svay Rieng Governor Chieng Am said the families have received support from the government, including from the Ministry of Labor. The driver had put too many people in the bus, he said, though he acknowledged that this practice is common. “So far the company has not come to talk to us,” he said.

Pao Sina, president of Collective Union of Movement Workers, said many workers travel this way, crammed into vans or buses for cheap fares. Two of his union members died in Tuesday’s crash. “We will help the families by providing them lawyers,” he said.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, urged the hospitals to pay close attention to the injured. He is also worried for the families of the deceased, because they may not have the proper documentation to receive compensation from the Ministry of Labor.

The accident serves as a grim reminder of the dangers of Cambodia’s roads. Some 30 people have died in the last three days, according to the national police. In 2014, 2,148 people died, up from 1,901 the year before.

Ear Chkriya, a consultant on traffic and road safety, said accidents cost Cambodia more than $300 million in 2014, for damages, medical treatments, lost productivity and police work.