Officials name suspects in illegal mine operation

Officials inspect a mine shaft in Kratie’s Sambor district, where a shaft collapsed in August, killing miners. Photo supplied
Officials inspect a mine shaft in Kratie’s Sambor district, where a shaft collapsed in August, killing miners. Photo supplied

Local authorities allege that a former Khmer Rouge soldier and his wife are behind the attempts to operate an unregistered gold mine near the site of a fatal mineshaft collapse in Kratie, but officials have not taken action yet.

Authorities identified two suspects – O’por village resident Kim Sarakea, and his wife, Sou Pharon – for leading a group of undocumented Vietnamese nationals to work in an unauthorised gold mine in Sambor district, according to Sok Kiriroth, director of the provincial Department of Mines and Energy. Kiriroth said yesterday that they received the tip from a cook who was detained for questioning last week.

O’por Village Chief Sok Yoeun said Sarakea allegedly led the group of undocumented workers to explore 5 hectares of land for mining potential, about 2 kilometres away from the site of a mine collapse that killed four workers in August.

The new mine site came to light last week after officials discovered at least 10 migrants from Kampong Thom province exploring the same shaft where the fatal collapse occurred. A separate collapse occurred in September.

The village chief said he could not take action against the mine because he was unaware of it until last week and was not authorised to shut it down.

Provincial Deputy Prosecutor Chea Sopheak said he had been to the site, but he has been unable to summon the alleged operators because he had yet to receive proper documentation from police.