Ground Broken for Bridges Near Site of Festival Tragedy

Phnom Penh governor Kep Chu­k­­tema presided yesterday over the groundbreaking for two new bri­dges to Koh Pich near where more than 300 people died in a stampede at the end of November’s Wa­ter Fes­tival.

The bridges, dubbed Neak Ploh or Twin Dragons, are expected to im­­prove traffic flow to and from the is­land, which is set to contain a large residential area and already hosts a popular market and conference hall. The bridges are to be located near the Diamond Bridge, the site of the stam­pede and currently a one-way exit from the island.

The Twin Dragons, a government-funded project, will be built quick­ly, according to Pung Keav Se, CEO of the site’s developer the Over­seas Cambodian Invest­ment Co­rp.

“The Twin Dragon bridges will take nine months to complete and will be finished in October,” he said.

Mr Keav Se added that, including the pending construction of the new bridges, the OCIC has spent $118 million on Koh Pich since 2005.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, Mr Chuktema did not mention November’s tragedy but said that the mun­icipality was eager to cooperate with and fund the OCIC be­cause of the ur­gent need for more quality housing.

“The people need about 10,000 new house a year that the government can’t build, so we are cooperating with this private company to build houses here,” said Mr Chuk­tema, adding that many of Koh Pich’s long-standing residents had signed agreements to be relocated to Kandal province.

According to Sia Phearum, secretary-general of NGO the Housing Rights Task Force, residents bei­ng asked to relocate are not be­ing gi­ven an adequate amount of mo­n­­­ey.

“The government has not negotiated compensation suitably for former Koh Pich resident, because they have given them to little to help them create better livelihoods for themselves,” said Mr Phearum.

Mr Phearum added that, compensation issues aside, he supported the construction of the new bridges because it showed that even while the government is “not wanting to make someone accountable, they are trying to make future events saf­er.”


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