Telethon Donations Stream in for Stampede Victims

Some $1.3 million in donations had come pouring into television stations by yesterday afternoon to support victims of Monday night’s stampede on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Bridge and the families of the 347 who died, according to company representatives.

The donations come on top of the $1,250 the government is offering the families of those killed, the $400 being offered by the Royal Family and the $1,000 from the firm that operates Koh Pich island. Both the Royal Family and the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation said they were also offering $200 each to those who were injured.

Bayon TV chief administrator Huot Kheang Veng said yesterday that the station, owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana, had raised $1,050,000 since launching its telethon mid-Tuesday.

“All the donated cash will be shared fairly with all the families of the dead,” he said. “We are now waiting for a clear death count and calculation of the money.”

CTN anchor Chum Kosal said the station had raised $251,000 through its own telethon and would use most of the money to buy supplies for the city’s hospitals and make donations to the injured.

“We will use some of the donations for hospital needs such as medicine, serum, etc, and we will give some support to injured people,” he said. “We will consider the dead people for the rest.”

However, some hospitals have reported turning away people falsely claiming they had been injured in Monday’s stampede. At Calmette Hospital, officials say they are not screening claimants.

Charities have started calling for more oversight.

“I believe the government has a responsibility to provide oversight for private fundraising,” said Sharon Wilkinson, country director for Care International. “People have dug deep into their pockets. Therefore there is a very clear need for oversight and anyone raising funds must be able to account for those funds.”

Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng, who is heading a special committee overseeing victim identification and family assistance, expressed full confidence in the government’s records of dead and injured.

“There is no confusion because we have the victims’ clear identities,” he said.

He also said the government was keeping its hands off the private donations, only giving the fundraisers help with names and addresses.

As for the government’s own donations, Mr Sam Heng said authorities had already reached the families of most casualties by yesterday afternoon, with teams reaching families in the provinces in person.

Uo Sarith, who lost his 21-year-old brother Uo Thiror and 20-year-old niece Klorng Somaly in the stampede, said the family spent $1,500 cremating and burying the pair Tuesday in Kompong Thom province’s Stong district.

Contacted by telephone yesterday, Mr Sarith said the family had received the government’s contribution but was still waiting on donations from the Royal Family and OCIC, which he singled out for blame for the lack of adequate security around its bridge Monday night.

“I feel very shocked because it should not have happened like this,” he said. “But no matter how much money we receive it can’t overcome our sadness.”

            (Additional reporting by Alice Foster, Khy Sovuthy and Clancy McGilligan)


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