Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stunning news from Cambodia

I often think I should resurrect my blog here between our trips, about which this usually features. I am usually not inspired enough to write though and don't want to simply babble.

However I was shocked enough to learn of the incident in Phnom Penh yesterday to think it deserved some commentary. As we spent several days in the capital city of Cambodia 3 years ago and I actually titled an earlier post about that visit Cambodian Horror Show because of the trouble we had with the stolen back pack with passports etc in it, it seems pretty trivial to describe our incident that way now. In fact even back then I alluded to that as we still were comparatively very well off compared to the trials and hardships this country has gone through.

Ok, Pakistani floods, Haiti earthquakes and Indonesian tsunamis also don't really compare with the 350 or so dead in the crush of people on that bridge in Cambodia, but the scale of this is still absolutely horrific. We actually were in the city during the Water Festival on our trip though that was purely accidental as we were travelling at a time or year that works well for us and just happened to put us there. The festival is timed to coincide with the full moon at the end of rainy season as this lowland country depends so much on the flow of water to nurture the fields and provide means of transport and livelihood.

Phnom Penh bursts at the seams with visitors during the Water Festival. Imagine a Woodstock music festival, or New Years Eve in Times Square, but spread over 3 days. As mentioned in my earlier posts we almost did not get back into the city when we returned from Siem Reap as the police were restricting access because of the crowded city (doubling in size) during the height of the festivities. Maybe they should have been doing the same on that bridge?

In fact we found the police to be not well organized there (understatement) overall, but I don't know that they could have done much to prevent this tragedy. The bridges over the wide and slow Tonle Sap and Mekong are long and relatively narrow, and I can just imagine the crowds on the pedestrian bridge to Diamond Island where this occurred. I don't recall seeing this bridge, but I do remember the crowds along the river very close to our hotel being practically impenetrable even on wide thoroughfares.

We made some nice friends in Cambodia when we were there and they might have been very close to this. I can only imagine what they might have gone though.

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