Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema presided over the reopening of Diamond Island’s northern bridge on Wednesday, where more than 350 people were killed last month in a stampede on the final night of the annual Water Festival break.
Monks blessed the bridge in a ceremony meant to cleanse the structure of all misfortune before crossing it themselves in a gesture of reassurance that the bridge was safe to use.
However, Kep Chuktema chose to arrive and depart the event using the alternate Spean Hang bridge.
Others in attendance expressed lingering concerns over the structure, with one saying the governor’s decision not to use it was disconcerting.
“The governor should have crossed the bridge that he just inaugurated,” said May Kimly, 50.
“It shows that he still fears the tragedy on the bridge.”
But Ros Pich Davy, 27, said she did not support opening the bridge at all. “They should keep it as a historic bridge for tourists to remember the stampede,” she said.
“I’m scared because when we travelled near the bridge, we still imagined the piles of people upon people in our eyes.”
Some 353 people were killed and another 393 injured, according to government data, when revellers became trapped on the bridge in the waning hours of the national Water Festival.
An official government investigation determined that the swaying of the suspension bridge caused panic and led to the stampede, though some continue to question the government’s explanation.
Srey Loeung, who survived the tragedy but lost her sister-in-law to it, said yesterday the issue required further study.
“I would support further investigations for finding the true reason for the unexpected tragedy of the
stampede,” she said.
Others flatly refused to use the newly reopened bridge. Stampede survivor Ung Nget, 25, from Takeo province, said he would not yet cross the bridge.
“I’m waiting to see how the government prepares to avoid such tragedies [in the future],” he said.