Work began over the weekend to dismantle Phnom Penh’s Diamond Bridge, which has for more than a year served as a grim reminder of one of the country’s worst peacetime disasters, after 353 people died in a stampede there in November 2010.
Chen Wai-ching, director of Asian Construction Corporation Co Ltd, which is charged with taking down the bridge, said yesterday that it would take two months to complete the work that began on Friday.
Mr. Wai-ching said that he did not know why the bridge was being removed.
“For us, they just give us the order, so it’s difficult for us to tell you why,” he said, referring questions to the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation. “Ask the owner of the bridge,” he said.
OCIC project manager Touch Samnang denied any connection between the stampede and the demolition, and said the bridge was being removed simply because it had been rendered obsolete following the construction of the $3 million Twin Dragon Bridges nearby.
“Now we’ve finished the two bridges, there is no need for one more bridge,” he said, adding that traffic jams would be alleviated.
“We will relocate the bridge to another place. The material will be used for another location on the island, but we’re not exactly sure where.”
Four diamond-shaped structures that had once been the pinnacles of the bridge’s spires lay on the bridge yesterday as workers drilled the cement around the bridge’s metal barriers, against which scores of bodies had been compressed.
Workers at the site said that they had no information as to why the bridge was being removed. Reporters were told by a foreman to stop asking questions and leave the site.
Among survivors and relatives of the dead, opinions were divided over the removal of the bridge.
Khat Chhorn, 50, from Choam Chao commune in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district, said his 12-year-old son, Chhel Chhat, had perished in the crush.
“When we think about Koh Pich Bridge, I feel regretful about my son who died on it,” he said. “In my mind, they should take it down. Do not make people remember the suffering when they pass on to the island.”
But Tou Sary, 30, from Kandal province’s Lvea Em district, whose wife died on the bridge, said it should be kept as a reminder of what happened.
“I want them to keep this bridge to remind people about the stampede,” he said.
A stupa in memory of the victims was inaugurated by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema last month, on the first anniversary of the tragedy.