Cambodia Expresses "Collective Grief" For Stampede Victims

As part of the remembrance, a religious ceremony was held at the footbridge near the capital, Phnom Penh, where the catastrophe occurred. Hun lit incense sticks and laid a floral wreath near the bridge while a military band played in the background. Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials were among those who paid their respects.

Hun Sen also promised that the government would build a memorial "to commemorate the souls of the people who lost their lives in the incident... and to remember the serious tragedy for the nation and the Cambodian people."

(RTTNews) - Cambodia on Thursday observed a national day of mourning for victims of Monday's stampede, which killed as many as 350 people, it is learnt.

A sombre-looking Prime Minister Hun Sen led the nation in paying tributes to the memory of those crushed to death in the second worst incident of its kind in recent history.

The incident occurred as several thousand Cambodians converged on Diamond Island near Phnom Penh on the last day of the "Water Festival," a major event in the Southeast Asian nation's social calendar.

Panic set in after a music concert on the Island which was preceded by a boat race on Tonle Sap river.

Survivors and relatives of victims though blamed authorities for causing the commotion by blocking a second entry point and for the slack response.

A preliminary probe into the stampede found that a swaying suspension bridge caused revelers to panic. Local media had reported that the inquiry panel, consisting of cabinet ministers and senior officials, concluded that many of those on the suspension bridge were rural folks and did not know that bridges like these swayed in the wind when used by large crowds.

Furthermore the committee found that the mounting death toll was also due to several of the revelers getting asphyxiated.

The Cambodian government had initially put the toll at 456 killed but this has since been revised.

According to Hun, the stampede was the biggest human tragedy witnessed in the country since the cold-blooded mass killings carried out by the Pol Pot led Khmer Rouge regime in the seventies.

It has been dwarfed only by the 2005 stampede in Iraqi capital, Baghdad, which claimed the lives of over 1000 Muslim Shias.

by RTT Staff Writer

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