Announcement of the Minister of Social Affairs on Koh Pich Tragedy

The Minister of Social Affairs, Ith Sam Heng, stated last Thursday that the number of casualties were 347 persons (126 males and 221 females.) The bodies of victims were delivered to their families, according to the official communication and they will be prepared for cremation following the Cambodian religious traditions. The funerals are supported by the authorities in every province. 

The Minister clarified also that the number was inflated to 456 due to confusions in the counting and different sources. It makes that the official death toll remains in 347 persons, while 395 is the number of injured people reported in the hospitals. Injured people from the Koh Pich tragedy are receiving free attention in hospitals thanks to the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, said the official communication.

The government has taken full responsability for the victims of one of the most shocking tragedies since the Khmer Rouge regime was in power and the aftermath consequences of civil war.

Confusing versions like some people were killed by electrical shocks were denied by the official investigators, witnesses and the media.

The primer minister ordered also a day of mourning for Thursday November 25. Religious ceremonies, especially Buddhist, were hold in different provinces, but the most important was in front to the Koh Pich bridge. In a ceremony that was broadcast by the state television channels, it was possible to see a crying primer minister while offering incense for the victims, most of them young people that were celebrating the end of the 2010 Canoes Festival (Bon Om Tuk in Khmer.)

The recent nominated Catholic Bishop of Phnom Penh, Mgr Oliviere, celebrated also a church service during the same national day of mourning in the Saint Joseph Parish of the Psar Touch quarter (Small Market), that is about three kilometers at the south of the disaster’s bridge.

Numberless messages of condolences were made public during the week from different countries, embassies and organizations. A message of condolence was published on the front page of The Cambodia Daily on November 25 signed by King Father Norodom Sihanouk from his residence in Beijing:

‘His Majesty King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. Message to the Nation. Very Respected Venerables, My Beloved Compatriots, The tragic event which occured in Phnom Penh on November 22, 2010 that took the life of our compatriots, men, women and children, filled us, Her Majesty Queen-Mother Norodom Monineath and I, with very profund sadness. Her Majesty the Queen-Mother and I present our most sorrowful condolences to all the families and the people who were hit by that tragedy’, said the Father of the Nation.

The general secretary for the organization of national and international festivals in Cambodia, Chea Kean, declared to the public opinion that the number of persons who participated in the Canoes Festival this year was reported in almost three million, most of them coming from rural areas.

Bon Om Tuk, that is translated in most Western languages as ‘Water Festival’, is actually in Khmer ‘The Canoas Festival’, a traditional feast that celebrates the return of the Megkong river to its normal channel. The official reports of the Canoeas Festival 2010 was very positive until the night of November 22, the last hours of the event, when the accident destroyed the happiness.

Responsible readings

  • The Koh Pich Disaster… Preventable? – by KJE, US-Cambodian blogger.
  • Official reports on the disaster – by Don Bosco Communication Center in Sihanoukville.
  • The Blame Game – Again by KJE reviewing Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza’s article of the Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong, who put heavy blame on government over the tragedy. The exposition of KJE is real : Cambodia is a developing country, it is learning and we need more discipline and education. If we have to blame somebody, we have to blame all of us.

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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (

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