SRP Asks National Assembly for New Koh Pich Inquiry

SRP lawmakers asked the National Assembly on Tuesday to form a new parliamentary committee to investigate last week’s fatal stampede on Phnom Penh’s Diamond bridge, a day after the executive branch concluded its own investigation into the disaster without holding anyone accountable.

“The government cannot sweep this under the rug,” said SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who signed the letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

Mr Samrin could not be reached. CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, however, a member of the Assembly’s standing committee, said the Assembly had yet to receive the letter but that he suspected the request would be rejected.

“I believe in the government’s work and I believe the other lawmakers do too,” Mr Yeap said, speaking of the investigation into Koh Pich.

Moments before officially ending the executive’s investigation Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said his committee concluded that the stampede-which claimed 351 lives-was triggered when people began to panic after the packed bridge started swaying. While conceding some security lapses during the annual Water Festival, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the same day that no government official would be resigning over what he called an “unexpected” event.

Dissatisfied with the results, the SRP wrote to Mr Samrin asking for a new committee to probe the conditions that led to the overcrowding.

“We ask for the creation of a special committee since we see that the government’s conclusions do not address the responsibility of the government and other authorities that have the duty to guarantee the security of the people,” the letter reads.

It asks the committee to probe who was responsible for security at the scene and what preparations they made for the expected crowds? It also questions what responsibility Koh Pich island’s developer holds in the tragedy.

Officials at the Overseas Cambodian Investment Commission, which owns both the bridge and the island it leads to, have admitted to inadequate crowd control among its own staff but placed ultimate responsibility for security on the government’s shoulders.

Mr Chhay said the SRP was hoping for a committee composed of representatives from each of the Assembly’s five parties, each with the authority to call on officials and expert testimony. He also said the party would consider launching its own investigation if the Assembly does in fact reject its request.

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