Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two years after tragedy, bridge for Diamond Island

Two years after tragedy, bridge for Diamond Island

Two years after tragedy, bridge for Diamond Island

120918_02a

Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An (C) cuts the inauguration ribbon of the new bridge to Koh Pich yesterday. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An (C) cuts the inauguration ribbon of the new bridge to Koh Pich yesterday. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Koh Pich’s shiny, new “twin dragon” bridge, built within meters of its predecessor, where 353 people died during a panicked crush during the 2010 Water Festival, was officially unveiled yesterday.

Officials touted the new bridge’s safety and convenience, but when it came to discussing what substantive measures are being taken to prevent a repeat of the crowd control issues that led to the 2010 tragedy, few answers were forthcoming.

With the festival just over two months away, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mem Sam An said the new bridge, which was finished in October last year, would “make the people of Phnom Penh happy”.

“This bridge will make it easy for our people to travel to visit Koh Pich during the Water Festival,” she said of the $2 million bridge funded by the island’s developer, Ocean Cambodian Investment Company.

The new bridge was erected not far from where the original – demolished late last year – once stood. The site remains a sad reminder for many of the November 22, 2010, tragedy, when thousands panicked on the tightly packed bridge.

Last year’s festival was cancelled, officials said at the time, due to widespread flooding that swept over the country.

When asked if authorities were prepared for this year’s celebration, Mann Chheoun, former City Hall deputy governor, said only that the new bridge enhanced safety.

“[Visitors] should not be scared to have something bad happen to them; this bridge was built in good condition.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said authorities were in preparation mode but could not answer whether other measures had been put in place, such as boosted security and police, emergency training or an increase in emergency equipment.

“[The Water Festival] will not be cancelled this year, and the people will come, because they have no reason to be scared of the ceremony,” he said

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief, could not be reached, while deputy police chief Hy Prou declined to talk about police preparation.

A 10-day investigation was undertaken by a team including OCIC officials and the government after the disaster. Prime Minister Hun Sen later announced it was an “accidental tragedy” no one would be held accountable for.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday his party was worried procedures would not be in place to prevent another disaster.

“We have serious doubts they have prepared sufficiently…They need to look at proper examples of event management and planning. It seems like nothing is different [to the preparation] of 2010,” he said.

“People should have been punished for the tragic events, someone should have been responsible for the deaths.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Mom Kunthear at [email protected]
Claire Knox at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release