Eighteen identical piles of food and drink sat next to 18 empty chairs at Svay pagoda yesterday morning. Each would soon be occupied by a relative of one of the people killed in Tuesday’s deadly crash just 15 kilometres away.
Before the ceremony to hand over the gifts of rice, noodles, tinned fish and water, two of the 18 killed would be cremated on the Svay Chrum district pagoda’s grounds.
Mov Chap had only been working at the Kingmaker factory for three months when the minivan she took to work every day was demolished by a speeding passenger bus, killing her and 14 others on the spot.
Three more would later die receiving treatment.
A sobbing procession of friends and relatives accompanied her simple coffin to the clay-walled structure in which she would be cremated.
Those too old to walk arrived by motorbike, those too upset to stand were helped along.
“She was only 27, she was a mother of two,” said a young male attendee, too overcome to give his name.
Once in place, two monks led the prayers to bless her in the next life, as offerings of money and some of the possessions she had cherished were placed on top of her body.
Once the prayers were over, the women and children departed, leaving the older men to light the torches as the younger ones looked on.
Less than an hour later, just 5 metres away, the scene was repeated. With Chap’s fire burning in the background, another Kingmaker employee was laid to rest.
“Why did my daughter have such a short life and die like this?” screamed Mey Sath, whose 23-year-old daughter Son Sorn had also died at the scene.
As the monks led the prayers, the mother begged for one last look at her daughter.
“Let me see my daughter’s face now; I need to touch my daughter.”
Moments later both Mey Sath and her elder daughter Sok San collapsed and were carried away by some of those in attendance.
But the worry is far from over for this family. Two more of Mey Sath’s daughters were also in the van, and among those rushed to the capital for emergency treatment.
“Please let my two daughters in Phnom Pen recover soon,” she said, while relatives supported her in the chair where they had seated her.
As the women and children left Son Sorn’s cremation, 50 metres away, family members began to take their seats next to the gift parcels the Red Cross had assembled.
Sitting in one of the chairs was Phorng Sakhourn, 50. She lost her 23-year-old daughter, her daughter-in-law and a second cousin in the crash.
Her daughter’s husband was also in the van, and is currently lying badly injured in a hospital bed in Phnom Penh.
“He was asking for his wife,” she said. “He did not know she had died; they always took the same van.”
One row along from Sakhourn sat 37-year-old Ean Rim with his 5-year-old daughter on his lap. Rim’s wife, Mon Sivon, 27, was another Kingmaker employee who was killed instantly.
Rim said he was just starting his shift at a carpentry workshop when his boss received a call and told him about the accident.
“I didn’t think my wife had died on the spot, I thought she’d just been injured,” he said.
But when he arrived on the scene he found her body lying on the asphalt. A bystander had covered her face with a shirt.
“I never imagined we could have such misfortune,” he said.