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The Kingdom copes with disaster

Remembering, loving and looking for answers two weeks after the bridge stampede

Searching for justice
The government’s search for answers is finished, others aren’t ready to stop.

Our biggest mistake is that we wrongly evaluated the situation. It was a joint mistake which led to the incident.... It was unexpected and [we were] careless.

-Hun Sen in a speech prior to the release of the government’s official investigation, released on Monday.

Nobody will be punished for the incident. 

-Hun Sen in the same speech, announcing a decision supported by the government’s report.

Satisfactory answers have not been forthcoming and it seems that the government wants to draw a line in the sand declaring that lessons have been learnt and such events will not be repeated.

-Part of a statement from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, released last week, announcing their plans to launch an independent investigation of the stampede.

The psychological toll

  • Advice on dealing with the pain  from Dr Nick Walsh*

The risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder is high for those involved with disasters. It may not develop straight away, but can develop over a few months. Flashbacks, nightmares and edginess, poor sleep and not enjoying activities you used to can make life very difficult for the individual and their family.

People face the issue of whether to ever return to Koh Pich or avoid it completely. Avoidance of thoughts and reminders of traumatic events is one of the features of PTSD. Returning to the site can trigger panic attacks and traumatising emotional responses, such as thinking it is happening again.

Reprogramming emotionally charged memories is extremely difficult. It takes time, therapy and lots of support.

Many people self-manage the anxiety with alcohol or other drugs, which is a risky strategy.

Long-term treatment involves antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy to reduce the impact of PTSD on one’s life. But, they can be difficult to access in Cambodia.

*This column has been shortened and edited from the original version, published in the Post Lifestyle section. The full text is available at:

If you need help or someone to talk to:

Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation:
call 023 6366 991 or visit
Social Services of Cambodia:
call 023 881 432 or visit

Last week we asked you what you thought would happen to Koh Pich after the stampede. Some of you said it would keep people away and others didn’t think it would make a difference. While the long term impact is yet to be seen, the story below by Soeun Say, which ran in the Post business section last Friday, tells of people on the island trying to make it through a difficult time for business.
Koh Pich business slows

MORE than 100 vendors at the Diamond Island night market asked their landlord to suspend rent for the next three months, due to a steep drop in customers since the stampede.

“It’s so quiet – my business has dropped by 80 to 90 percent”, said the owner of one shop that sells soup and drinks. “We have no money to pay our suppliers. We hope the companies understand our situation and forgive us.”

The vendors have submitted petitions asking for the suspension of rent payments, but they plan to continue selling their wares in the hopes that custom will see a resurgence in the future.

“I’m not afraid – we are continuing with our business. If we postpone our plans, it will just make visitors more afraid,” said the owner of a salon.

“We have received the request, and it has been sent to top management to find a solution,” said Chan Sotheary, manager of the night market.



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