Monks chanted and dozens knelt and prayed as the opposition party held a ceremony remembering the victims of the 2010 Koh Pich bridge stampede yesterday, one day before the Phnom Penh municipality is slated to hold its own memorial ceremony.
The stampede claimed 353 lives on the last day of the 2010 Water Festival, but three years on, “our feelings are still marked by pity and so much suffering”, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Ho Vann said at the event.
“We are all the same as the families of the dead, and still wonder at how the spot was so narrow, how they stampeded while the bridge was so gridlocked that [people] could not cross and how they were suffocated [in the scrum],” Vann told the assembled crowd. “Only an independent committee that has real experts can properly clarify [what caused] this very strange tragedy.”
After a government investigation into the incident determined that overcrowding and panic caused by the swaying of the bridge had caused the stampede, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that no public officials would be held personally responsible for the tragedy.
CNRP president Sam Rainsy was in Svay Rieng during yesterday’s ceremony, but – speaking through a telephone held up to the loudspeaker – called for an investigation, and seemingly insinuated the possibility of foul play.
“It is careless, but [some] can have bad ideas to kill Khmer people to serve [their] interests. That’s why we demand an investigation to find out who is responsible, [and] to reveal the real reason,” he said.
Attendee Van Youdany, 59, seconded the opposition’s calls, saying “Mr [Hun Sen] must find out the truth of this story”.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the government had already investigated, and accused the opposition of being overly critical.
“What we found out is that the crowds who crossed there panicked, [because] they were afraid of the bridge breaking. So this is regrettable, [but] this story didn’t just happen in Cambodia, it has happened in all countries.”