Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Tragedy Waiting to Happen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Op-Ed by MP

This is not the time for recriminations or apportioning blame, but a public tragedy and grief of this magnitude demand or deserves at least a thorough, open post-mortem examination, if only to prevent similar events from ever taking place again.

The term ‘tragedy’ is usually used to describe a misfortune or a calamitous incident mediated through the agency of human practice or malpractice. This practice could bear the imprint of deliberate intentions on the part of human agents themselves, or be a consequence of sheer negligence or incompetence on the part of those involved or entrusted with the responsibility towards maintaining public order and safety. On the other hand, we describe those events as ‘disasters’ where the forces of nature or the will of God and/or spiritual powers are held to be their causes, although apart from certain natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (unknown to Cambodia), it is increasingly difficult to attribute other seemingly natural occurrences to non-human agencies such as devastating floods, droughts, heat waves and so forth that could otherwise at least be better contained or alleviated through sustainable ecological or environmental policy and management.

In short, if a disaster lies beyond man’s power to manipulate or control, a tragedy is not only a disaster waiting to happen; it bears not only an air of inevitability, but is completely unnecessary and thus preventable, if one rules out the role of human foul play as stated. To suggest that the responsible authorities had not foreseen or failed to anticipate such an event would be to whitewash them off their direct charge and complicity over this tragic incident. In other nations that enjoy far better, more accountable systems of public administration, public safety can still be vulnerable to random acts of terrorism or official negligence, yet whilst these being the case, rarely are such acts or instances of negligence and gross incompetence allowed to go unpunished. Counting on one’s political patron to absolve one of the burden of guilt, or in Cambodia’s case, where might is right, being one sitting at the helm of a vast network of patronage system with all the protective cushion of enforced impunity, is not thought to be a meaningful defence or rational refuge.

The deaths of hundreds of revellers – many drawn to the capital from rural areas – in the stampede highlight only clearly the gross mismanagement and incompetence of public planners and relevant authorities in the staging of traditional festivals of this kind. One could tolerate the lack of medical facilities to deal with such large scale and sudden emergencies, but the failure to channel and manage the flow of crowds, particularly, along tight venues such as bridges and river front quays where overcrowding and stampeding had resulted in deaths and injuries in the past, is a grave and unpardonable abdication of public responsibility.

Where such venues cannot accommodate the traffic of large crowds of pedestrians, it would be rational to restrict and control the volume of that traffic by placing an exit and entry point at appropriate locations to ensure that the street or bridge does not become overstressed with expanding crowds by allowing pedestrians to enter and exit in stages or instalments. With people more sparsely spread in such strategic locations, the possibility for sparks of panic and stampeding would be drastically reduced, and even if there is a panic, there would be more space for people to evade being trampled upon and to avoid suffocating or fainting.

I believe also that a more responsible government in future should free up that narrow stretch of ‘river mouth’ area and preserve it for public enjoyment. I think it is an injury to the Khmer people and the public alike to allow casinos or vast hotel complexes to claim this space that had traditionally been one of the few places ordinary people living in Phnom Penh go to for relaxation and to take in the scenery.

With deep condolences and compassion for families of all victims of the stampede tragedy.



Anonymous said...

Those how are in charge of manage and organize this event must be responsible for this tragedy.

Anonymous said...

The problem started around 9 00 PM, but why the rescuers came at 11 00 PM? where did they go? and why all polices and PM allowed them to pass that bridge although they knew that the span are narrowed.?

Anonymous said...

Irresponsibility is still a culture of Cambodian government. Hundreds of people died no one claim for repsonsibility since then at least in terms of mismangement and organization.

Anonymous said...

Well articulated, MP! Thank you your reasoned voice.

Anonymous said...

MP needs to be more specific, instead of dwelling on generalities; otherwise, MP benefits a great deal from hindsights.

Kuoy Pichet

Anonymous said...

Thanks MP!!! Now Cambodia should know about Public Safety. From this stagedy they should learn and prevent.

Anonymous said...

All Khmers,

Did Hun Sen care for the Welfare, the Safety of KHmer public since he usurped the POWER from Pol Pot with the help of Hanoi's invasion of Cambodia until now?

Almost 30 years Hun Sen ruled Cambodia with IRON FISTS. His mouth is the LAWS for Khmer people.

Hun Sen and Hanoi trapped the kings , father and son,inside a Golden Cage, and used them as Rubber Stamp to legalise everything to benefit Vietnam's interests, and to incorporate Cambodia into a Federation of Vietnamese Indochina in the near future.

Did, do, and will Sihanouk, Sihamoni and Hun Sen himself know this Hanoi's Intention and planning???

Anonymous said...

We don't have any concrete evidence to point in any direction as yet, unless Kit Pi Choy can enlight us at this moment. However, for those individuals who have critical thinking, after having read this piece, would be able to form their own conclusions.

Kit Te Pi Chom Taing

Anonymous said...

In Cambodia, life is a challenge, anywhere, anytime.

Only people with pig's brain could let thousand of people crossing a very small bridge with two ways circulation. Why not ask those organizers to be resigned and get responsibility???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Anonymous said...

high ranking officers believ it the riot after informed by drunken police oficers. so they used water cannon to break the riot. electrocution caused more peple to panic and loss conscious during stampede. high rank officers and police must held responsible.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kulen Monorom said...

Your Majesty Samdech Ta former King Norodom Sihanouk,

Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen,

Thank you for your both kindness and understanding.
What we need is prevention methods, not to let this type of accident happen again in the future.

It also makes me very worried to see so much alcohol allowed to enter or be produced in our beloved Kingdom of Cambodia? What about “ YA BA “ and other types of DRUGS from Thailand and Vietnam?

Can His Majesty Samdech Ta and Samdech Hun Sen stop all sorts of drugs coming to Cambodia? The accident may not be related to drugs and alcohol but just some thing that I could not sleep peacefully from now on to the future, in the names sake of true Khmer citizen.

Can Samdech Hun Sen kindly ask all 5 million Vietnamese illegal immigrants to peacefully return to Vietnam, so Koh Pich will not be too crowded more and more every day, every month and every year to come.
All Vietnamese illegal immigrants can easily come in and settle inside Cambodia even though they already have their own country Vietnam.

When Cambodia is too crowded, definitely we Khmer people can not go to settle inside Vietnam, can we?
Please Vietnamese, you said you came to rescue us from Pol Pot, and you don’t want to return home, it is not right according to 23rd October 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, can all of you go back to your country now.

Vietnamese illegal immigrants, you see because 5 million of you are inside Cambodia, it makes us too crowded and we wasted our lives at Koh Pich without good reasons.

Your Vietnamese Communism expansionist mind in Cambodia, is to give an excuse to China mainland to occupy your Spratly Islands, Parcel Islands, the whole of your Eastern sea border and perhaps the Northern border sooner or later.

5 million Vietnamese illegal immigrants in Cambodia, please go back home to defend your country from Chinese mighty economic invasion.

May I pray to God and the Lord Jesus Christ that those who have lost loved one will be comforted.

My condolences to all the victim's family.


Kulen Monorom
(The rice farmer's son)