When Cheuk Bophy, a 40-year-old mother in Prey Veng province, sees her neighbor’s daughter at home next door, she imagines that her own daughter is still alive.
But Duk Srey Mom is gone, one of 353 people killed on Diamond Bridge during last month’s Water Festival.
The city reopened the bridge on Wednesday in hopes of bring commerce back to Diamond Island, but for those who lost loved ones in the disaster, the pain remains.
“I now feel much sorrow and sadness for losing my favorite daughter,” Cheuk Bophy said in an interview. “I lost everything in my life. I cannot see my favorite daughter anymore from now on, but I can keep her in my memory and heart for all time.”
Duk Srey Mom, who was 20, was born into a poor family, but she worked 12 hours a day in a garment factory near the capital in order to send money home. Her mother said she hopes in the next life her daughter will find better fortune.
“I have prayed my daughter’s soul to rest in peace,” Cheuk Bophy said. “I wish that she be reincarnated into a rich and kind family, and not meet poverty like this time, and that she can learn in a university, attain great knowledge, understanding and wisdom, and particularly that she will act with kindness, that she will live long, and that she will not meet with a deadly incident.”
Duk Srey Mom made it to the eighth grade. After school, she helped cook, washed the dishes, looked after her two sisters, cleaned the house and did the laundry. On holidays, she helped with the farm. She was forced to give up her studies to seek work in Phnom Penh.
Her mother asked her not to drop out of school. But Duk Srey Mom told her, “I must go out and find a job for money to support the family and the studies of my brothers and sisters,” Cheuk Bophy said.
“I cannot forget what my daughter said and what she did in the interest of the family,” she said. “I hope that we can meet as mother and daughter in the next life.”
Duk Srey Mom worked at the Chou Shing garment factory in the suburbs of Phnom Penh. She earned between $80 to $120 a month, often in overtime. She sent home at least half of what she earned. She never complained about the work, her mother said, and she became a pillar of the family’s wellbeing.
“I’ve lost the income that my daughter tried to earn every day and every month,” her mother said. “I completely depended on my daughter to help support the family. The loss of this daughter is the biggest loss, both in spirit and in life, because my family is facing poverty.”
Coworker Chea Chanthou said Duk Srey Mom had been modest and polite.
“She was obedient, perseverant in her work and assisted her workmates,” she said. “She took care of her work and worked without thinking of day or night, particularly working overtime because she needed the money. Her living looked poor, but she worked hard.”