During this time of the year in previous years, Cambodians were sharing holiday stories and how they happily participated in the Water Festival celebrations. But not today. Cambodians are still mourning the death of 347 people in the stampede tragedy which happened last week at Koh Pich Bridge.
Mainstream media channels and even online social network tools have been used to send news updates, to call for support, and to express condolence to families of the victims. Top government officials, civil society organizations, youth networks and individuals joined together and launched numerous initiatives to help those who are recovering in the hospitals and to support the victims’ family members.
While there were controversial issues like how government should be accountable for its failure to protect and ensure the people's safety, a number of individuals consider the tragedy as an opportunity to learn rather than focus on blame finding.
A Cambodian facebook user, Sreng Sopheap, from Ratanakiri, northeastern part of Cambodia says:
It is not to look for someone to blame but to find ways to heal the internal broken heart. A lesson to be learnt, but should not be blamed…
Another facebooker, Samsokrith Chhaly, identified as an active volunteer member of the organizing committee of the 2010 Barcamp Phnom Penh, urges the public to think of those who died during the Water Festival as heroes:
Let's not think of them as “unfortunate victims”… but think of them as “accidental heroes.” Their death give us priceless lesson…
This incident should be an adequate reason for the government to establish an effective risk management system in the country. A number of online users raised good suggestions.
Sophary Noy, a human rights worker, lists her recommendations through her facebook:
With death toll of innocent ppl @KohPich during dis festival, de gov't shld provide more protective arrangements such as install 1st aid booth in every 200-300m distance & reserve clear line 4 ambulance route. Any death is costly & a waste 4 de nation. With adaptation & correction, we can avoid unnecessary death by de next 5yrs. Bit by bit we can change de culture of blaming & re-activate our culture of responsibility
Sad for what happened with 339 persons accounted to be dead (and probably more to be added), and concern whether this will lead to sharp analysis of the reasons – and that it may lead to fundamental changes on how to plan safety. Safety for big crowds, but also for the many new high rise buildings going up, where the fire-fighting forces cannot reach with present equipment much higher than their ladders.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, tourism expert Ouk Vanna cited the lack of professionalism in public event management and the lack of risk management system in Cambodia.
[…] ការរៀបគម្រោងមេ ដើម្បីការពារហានិភ័យឲ្យបានខ្ពស់បំផុត គួរអនុលោមតាមនិយាមអន្តជាតិ ដូចជាសិក្សាភាពហានិភ័យលើទីតាំងឲ្យបានសុក្រឹត រៀបចំកម្លាំងការពារសង្គ្រោះឲ្យសមាមាត្រទៅនឹងចំនួនមនុស្សដើរ កម្សាន្ត ឬចំនួនអ្នកទេសចរ ហ្វឹកហ្វឺនជំនាញបច្ចេកទេសដល់កម្លាំងសន្តិសុខលើផ្នែកនីមួយៗ និងរៀបចំក្រុមបម្រុងដើម្បីបង្ការ និងសង្គ្រោះពេលមានហានិភ័យដែលអាចកើតឡើងជាយថាហេតុនៅនឹងកន្លែង រៀបចំស្លាកសញ្ញាបង្ហាញផ្លូវថ្មើរជើង ត្រួតពិនិត្យចរន្តមនុស្សជាប្រចាំតាំងពីដើមដល់ចប់កម្មវិធី។[…]
Though the government, with support from mainstream media, was quick to act and help the victims and their family members by shouldering the cost of hospitalization, transportation of dead bodies, and mourning ceremony, there are still reports of extortion from public officials who are assisting the victims. There is also a visible lack of health infrastructure to accommodate such huge inflow of victims at the same time. Obviously, there are still questions about government responsibility, fund management to directly benefit the victims, and disaster management reforms.