Koh Pich: One Year After
On 22 November 2010, one year ago, a man-made tragedy happened on the new Pich hanging bridge. 353 people, especially young one, died on the scene or at the hospital. Around 400 seriously injured. It took place on the last night of the popular three days Water Festival. A government’s investigation committee was formed, did investigate and nobody was held responsible for this incidents. It means the deaths and the injuries were held responsible for their own actions (active or passive) by crossing the bridge on that tragic moment. Some people claimed that “electric shock” was one of the reasons, though not confirmed. Other reasons would be the neglect of the traffic sign and uncontrolled huge crowd crossing the bridge from both sides which caused the tragedy.
Now, one year has passed. In the mean time, I went occasionally to the island to join wedding ceremonies, to visit trade fairs, to drive around escaping the mainland Phnom Penh and to show our relatives from the countryside the famous bridge that took so many lives in the Cambodian history. I can say that one or two months after the tragedy, the island was very quiet. But, day in-day out, people tend to forget and they return to Koh Pich for business or pleasure as usual. Construction works are going on: housing complex, apartments, one big theatre for 3,000 people, meeting halls and two more new bridges etc. “Now, to book a venue for wedding, people must reserve it 3-4 months earlier and it is expensive”, one of my friends complained. He has his daughter married there on 5 November, in which I also attended. It was traffic chaos again. I needed to park my car on the mainland area and walked across the newly built bridge to joint this event. On the entrance bridge around 1 km traffic jams on that evening. On the evening of 20 November, I drove my car to visit Koh Pich just to see what happened after one years and took some pictures.
A memorial monument is recently built to mourn the deaths and the 25 November is declared as national mourning day to keep people remembered this painful tragedy. It costs more than U$ 120,000. A religious ceremony was held in the morning of 22 November 2011. It was presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, Phnom Penh’s Governor Kep Chuk Tema and Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana. 353 monks were invited to bless for the 353 deaths. Parents, relatives, friends of the deaths victims and other Cambodians were also presents.
This year, it was relatively calm on the island since the government canceled the water festival due to big flood which destroyed 250 lives and damaged properties, schools, pagodas or infrastructures up to U$ 500 million. So this year, we have natural disaster (partly also man-made since rain forests and trees, which could act as water holding tanks, were cut down and destroyed) which claimed also many lives. I hope that in the New Year 2012, there would be no natural or man-made disasters happening in our country. Cambodians have been suffering more than in enough in the 20thCentury.