Hun Sen Orders Toxic Ice Factory Shut Down

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Saturday that he had ordered a Phnom Penh ice-making factory to shut down, after pungent chemical emissions from the plant in Russei Keo district caused more than 100 nearby residents to be hospitalized with breathing problems on Friday.

At least 20 of those hospitalized had to spend the night in the hospital, while 100 more were prescribed medication and told to return on Saturday to check ammonia-absorption levels, according to district health chief Phan Phearath. Ammonia is used in the ice freezing process.

Police said that the factory was shut down on Friday night, following the hospitalizations and a series of protests by angry residents.

“We have ceased operations at the factory and [the owners] have already moved equipment from that area,” municipal police chief Choun Sovann said Sunday, adding that he did not know where the factory would now relocate.

The factory, in Russei Keo district’s Kilometr Pram Muoy commune, is owned by Seng Kanha, who is the daughter of Kompong Speu province’s deputy governor, Tong Seng.

The factory has been the subject of a series of recent protests due to the adverse affect on residents’ health from putrid smelling emissions and 24-hour noise, but government authorities did not act on the complaints or the obvious pollution. The factory’s owners could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Hun Sen, speaking at the inauguration ceremony of a pagoda in Kompong Chhnang prov­ince on Saturday, blamed the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy for allowing the factory to pollute the area with toxic chemical gases, and for refusing to act on ongoing complaints by the community.

“Local authorities had called for the factory’s closure for a long time, and after more than 100 people were hospitalized, I had to use my power to force its closure,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that he had personally instructed newly appointed municipal governor Pa Socheatvong, district governor Klaing Huot, and police to shut down the factory.

One of the residents, 53-year-old Hai Huon, said she was relieved the factory was finally closed.

“We are so excited to be returning to normal; there is no more noise and no bad smells.”

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