Bridge Where Stampede Occurred to Be Reopened

The bridge between Phnom Penh’s Hun Sen Park and Koh Pich island where nearly 350 people perished in a stampede on Nov 22 will be reopened on Wednesday, the island’s developer said yesterday.

The bridge has been closed for the past two weeks as government and police investigated what triggered the stampede. It remained closed yesterday, cordoned off by yellow police tape.

Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation spokesman Charles Vann said yesterday that the reopening of the bridge was a positive development for vendors on Koh Pich and for the continued healing of the city, but admitted that many might be reticent to cross the bridge because of fears of ghosts or bad luck that may be associated with the site.

“Some people will go to Koh Pich that way now and maybe over time more people will start to use the bridge again,” said Mr Vann yesterday.

According to Mr Vann, who is also the vice president of Canadia Bank, OCIC plans to create additional bridges between mainland Phnom Penh and Koh Pich, but plans have not been finalized and still need approval from City Hall.

“We are thinking of maybe two more bridges to help people get to Koh Pich, but we don’t have details yet,” said Mr Vann.

Deputy municipal governor Pa Socheatvong said yesterday that he would not attend the Wednesday morning ceremony to reopen Diamond Bridge but that “His Excellency Governor Kep Chuktema might attend.” Mr Chuktema could not be reached yesterday for comment.

An SRP proposal to form a parliamentary committee to further investigate the stampede, which might have kept the bridge closed longer, was rejected on Friday by National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

“It is not necessary to set up [a committee] because the government is managing everything,” wrote Mr Heng Samrin of the SRP’s proposal.

Last Monday, Cabinet Minister Sok An issued the final report of the government’s investigation into the Koh Pich tragedy, concluding that the stampede was triggered when people panicked because the suspension bridge began swaying.

Nhim Vanda, first vice chairman of the National Committee for Disaster Management, who helped lead the government subcommittee dealing with stampede casualties, said yesterday that he was pleased that the bridge was reopening to the public.

“I welcome the reopening of the bridge and I want to cross it to Koh Pich, even though we are all sorry for those who died,” Mr Vanda said, adding that the death toll from the incident, which has been rising as victims of the stampede die of injuries sustained on the bridge, had not increased since hitting 353 on Saturday.

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