Koh Pich: Two Months after the Tragedy

Two months ago, a tragic stampede, the worst ever in our history, had happened on the Pich (Diamond) Bridge connecting the mainland Phnom Penh and a small island called, Koh Pich or Diamond Island. 353 people died and 390 injured, mainly youth from the provinces. The accident occurred in the last night of the most popular water festivals in the capital, on 22 November 2010. So far, nobody has been held accountable for that accident. Nobody resigned.

 Since then, two months time has been passed. What is happening now to Koh Pich and its huge dubious development’s plan? Just days after the tragedy; the government let the public know that the development plan on that island will be carried out, the “killing’s bridge” will be not demolished (as some people requested!) and two more bridges similar size will be built to provide better access to the island. And people should not feel fearful to do business in Koh Pich. The Prime Minister encouraged people to come and visit Koh Pich as usual, no need to worry or have any fear etc. He, himself, has presided over two important international gatherings on the island:

Exhibition Halls of ASEAN TOURISM FORUM 15-21 January 2011

  1. Welcome Dinner for Delegates of the Asian Political Parties Conference on December 2, 2010. Thousands of Invitees were Presidents, Prime Ministers, Statesmen, Ambassadors, VIP guests and Dignitaries from more than 40 countries and 90 political parties and local government’s officials present.
  2. Opening Ceremony of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2011 on 18 January. Delegates came from ASEAN countries; including China, Japan, Korea and Russia; media around the world, businessmen and representatives of the travel agencies in the region and the world.

 Besides, there were official ceremonies, conferences, dinners, exhibitions organized mainly by the government with the aim to bring life back to normal on this island, as soon as possible. However, large halls, once were filled and overbooked by wedding ceremonies, remain empty, in the mid of the wedding season. 

My sons and their friends in one fast food store-almost empty

I and my family visited the island again yesterday evening to see what happened. To my observation, there are following points worth mentioning, in comparison to the scale before the tragedy:

  • Around 20-30% of ordinary people coming to visit the island again
  • Around 50% of the leisure shops, games, entertainments area and fast food stores are in business. But, very few people inside.
  • Wedding halls, once were very popular, are still 100% closed
  • The streets are more or less empty
  • Construction works are still going on, also at night-time

 After the visit, I am convinced that in a short period of time, people will return to Koh Pich as a leisure destination again. They come to relax, to have fun, to eat, to entertain, to organize other activities as normal since there is not much open space for Phnom Penher to take breath. Also, we, as human being, tend to get into panic quite quickly when something bad happened to us and tend to rapidly forget it as well.

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