Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 16 crushed to death as police 'panic'



16 crushed to death as police 'panic'

16 crushed to death as police 'panic'

The death of 16 people on King Sihanouk's birthday last Sunday has raised further

questions about the ability of Cambodia's police force to face the problems of a

modern society.

Thousands of visitors attempted to leave the palace the moment the night's firework

display began but found themselves trapped when police refused to let them leave.

One palace guard said the catastrophe could have been avoided if police had listened

to their advice, and he accused them of panicking.

"It was jammed everywhere. People were pushing and screaming," said the

guard. "Breathing was almost impossible."

Police, however, put the blame on "gangsters" who they said caused panic

in order to pick-pocket the crowd.

As the celebrations continued Monday, police ensured the crowds were out of the palace

by 6pm, well before that evening's fireworks display began.

Sunday's fireworks began at 7pm prompting thousands of palace visitors to surge towards

the exit on the east side, facing the Tonle Sap River, from where the fireworks were

launched.

But they were met by police who told them to leave by a gate on the north side.

Police on the north side also refused to let anyone out and told the crowd to return

to the east gate.

People were crushed and trapped for nearly an hour before police realized something

was seriously wrong.

Throughout the ordeal, the east gate remained open but witnesses say police ignored

the pleas from the dying and injured, barring the exit instead.

Outside, as thousands of revelers celebrated King Sihanouk's 71st birthday, the noise

of fireworks masked the events unfolding behind them.

Inside, Chou Yem, 50, was struggling to save her niece from the pushing crowd. She

joined hands with her sister to give some protection to the young girl.

"The gate was packed with the crowd, it was impossible to breathe. Nobody could

see the ground and we had to keep our faces up," she said.

"I could not see who was falling because I was so worried about my niece. I

was scared to death and my niece kept screaming and screaming."

People were trampled by others trying to get through the gate. Some were crushed

to death, some suffocated.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and