Losing the former King and independence hero Norodom Sihanouk was very sad for Cambodia. But the loss, while somber, appears to have brought out a sense of Khmer solidarity.
Almost one million people accompanied the body of the former king from Phnom Penh International Airport to the Royal Palace while many more millions watched it on TV. But, sadly, some individuals have used the situation as an opportunity to take advantage of others in the massive crowds that were assembled.
One of the many who went to accompany the King’s body on the 7th day of the mourning period, October 23, was Chom Sophy, 61.
“It is so crowded, I can’t even walk through,” he explained from the crowd. “It’s a historical event in Cambodia – in the past couple of decades, this the first Cambodian king to have been lost.”
Sophy went to mourn in front of the Royal Palace several times, but the crowds and traffic that surrounded the palace stopped her from coming every day.
During the mourning period, there was not sufficient parking space for every Cambodian to mourn the former king.
“We are trying our best to avoid traffic jams by not allowing any vehicles to park around the stop point,” said Sim Sok, a traffic policeman at a stop point near Ounalom pagoda.
Despite the attempts to ease the traffic, many vehicles were still parking and the traffic got worse and worse especially during the evening. Sok claimed that the majority were tuk-tuks waiting for clients.
“One after one, I almost have not been able to handle it. I understand that everyone comes here to respect, love and mourn our king but it has been my responsibility to take care of the safety of everyone so please understand the duties of the police to stop parking illegally.”
Traffic jams were just one problem. There was also a high instance of parking price and pick-pocketing.
With some many Cambodians coming to the Royal Palace to mourn the king father, some businessmen took the opportunity to increase the parking prices to 2000 or 4000 riel for one moto – far higher than the normal price.
Pin So Pheap, a parking official stationed behind the Royal Palace said that he would never charge more than 1000 riel for one moto. “Personally, I don’t like this to happen, it seems like stealing. It’s not only making the public critical but also making a bad reputation for others who have the same business.”
“We are all Khmer. Why do we need to be rich by doing this bad thing?”
Ly Da, a student who was charged 2000 riel to park, complained: “It is too much. Everyone came here for mourning but this place took the opportunity to gain profit. As a student from the provinces, I do not have as much money as other people: 2000 riel is not that small a sum for me.”
Sorn Hung, who works at Phnom Penh Hotel said that she lost her phone, a Samsung Galaxy, during the 7th day of the King’s funeral. At the time, she was working with a group who were giving out free water at the Royal Palace.
“It was so crowded that I didn’t pay much attention to my phone, I just left it in my pocket. I was so busy giving out the pure water. It was not only me who lost something, but other visitors that day who said they had lost their phone.”
From my experience, I would recommend: “Please be in control and pay attention to your property, especially the expensive stuff.”