Diamond Bridge, Site of Tragedy, Reopens

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema yesterday presided over the reopening of the bridge between Hun Sen Park and Koh Pich where hundreds perished in a stampede on Nov 22.

At yesterday morning’s Krong Pali ceremony, a Buddhist rite asking spirits and ghosts for forgiveness and support, Mr Chuktema emphasized the importance of Koh Pich’s continued development.

“We are helping to develop Koh Pich because it will help Phnom Penh grow up too,” said Mr Chuktema.

Mr Chuktema added that in order to facilitate the flow of traffic to Koh Pich, two new bridges would be built and that work would begin as soon as the city finalized a few remaining details.

“We are planning to construct a bridge for access and a bridge for leaving Koh Pich,” said Mr Chuktema.

By yesterday afternoon, a steady stream of motorcycles and tuk-tuks was crossing the bridge. In the evening, the traffic thickened as a city-organized concert attracted a crowd of revelers to a stage set up on the island. Guards posted on the bridge moved drivers along quickly, shouting at those who stopped to take in the view or attempted to cross from the mainland side. The bridge is, for the time being, one-way.

Bayon TV Deputy Director-General Huot Kheangvieng said the municipality had asked his company to provide logistical support for the concert.

“We were asked to monitor the concert by the municipality, but it is a city concert,” said Mr Kheangvieng.

Despite the rumors of bridge hauntings that proliferated in the wake of the stampede, visitors to the site of the stampede said yesterday that they were not concerned about ghosts or bad luck.

“I am not afraid of walking on the bridge now that the monks have done the ceremony to reopen it,” said Y Virak, a 36-year-old city native.

San Sarom, a 34-year-old Phnom Penh man, voiced skepticism that the bridge was ever a source of bad luck, saying “I think that what happened was just an accident.”

But a Buddhist nun sitting by the bridge yesterday evening said the spirit of one of the stampede victims visited her at her home in Takeo province and asked her to come to Phnom Penh with offerings.

“While meditating, I heard the voices of the dead who told me to please help them,” said the woman, who called herself Yeay Kulen after the mountain where her pagoda is located. “I believe that there are still spirits here that need help to be reborn and I will be here until midnight ever day to give them food and praying for them.”

National Center for Disaster Management first vice-chairman Nhim Vanda said yesterday that the number of injured people remaining in Phnom Penh’s hospitals had dwindled from 395 to 67.

 

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