PHNOM PENH—Hundreds of ethnic Cham Muslims are now homeless after a fire razed their crowded section of the Cambodian capital.
The blaze erupted early on Nov. 19 in an area dominated by the city's Muslim Cham minority, local police chief Som Bunny said.
Some 300 houses were destroyed in Reussey Keo district, Ly Rossamy, deputy district chief, said.
It lasted from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., she said, adding that an explosion of a cooking gas or electricity in the area may start the fire.
"No one was killed or injured. They all were evacuated," she said. An investigation into the cause is under way.
"Some removed their belongings and went by boat to the other side of the river. Some others moved to the main road."
A map displays Reussey Keo district in Phnom Penh. Credit RFA
Although large neighborhood fires are increasingly rare in Phnom Penh, a series of suspicious blazes several years ago destroyed a number of slum areas, forcing tens of thousands to flee.
"Each of us has [lost] hundreds of thousands of dollars," one resident said.
"We lost everything... The firefighters didn't even try to stop it."
Under Secretary of State for Vocational Training Okgna Ousman Hassan, who was at the scene, said fire trucks didn't have sufficient road access to put out the blaze.
Some 240,000 Cham Muslims live in Cambodia, making them about 1.6 percent of the population in the predominantly Buddhist country, according to a recent survey by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center.
Original reporting by Sek Bandith for RFA's Khmer service. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.