PHNOM PENH - The leader of the youth wing for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party has filed a complaint with the local court against Prime Minister Hun Sen, alleging the premier’s responsibility for the deaths of more than 350 people in a bridge stampede in November 2010.
The youth leader, Soung Sophoan, claims the government should be responsible for the deaths of those involved, because it was poor security and a lack of oversight that created the conditions on the crowded bridge that lead to a fatal panic.
He filed suit at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, telling reports that Hun Sen should ultimately be responsible for the deaths of 353 people and the injuries of some 400 more on the Koh Pich bridge. He said he will file a similar suit at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Soung Sophoan said he would also file complaints against Kong Sam Ol, chief of the Royal Cabinet, Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh, and Touch Narath, former Phnom Penh police chief, all of whom he called “most responsible” for the tragedy.
Municipal court chief judge Chhiv Keng could not be reached for comment. However, government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the suits as a media stunt for political gain. There is no evidence to charge the prime minister with, he said.
However, one survivor of the bridge stampede, Ros Kong, said he welcomed an official complaint, because it could lead to an inquiry that might find those responsible for the tragedy.
The bridge stampede took place at the 2010 Water Festival in Phnom Penh, when hundreds of people crowded a bridge leading to Koh Pich island, ultimately packing the bridge so tightly that no one could move. The crowd eventually panicked, setting off a stampede that led to one of the worst tragedy’s in Cambodia’s modern history.
A government inquiry after the disaster found no government or police officials at fault, despite public outrage. The Water Festival was canceled the following year, and a small monument has been erected at the foot of the bridge. The Water Festival was again canceled this year, not for the bridge disaster, but to honor the passing of former king Norodom Sihanouk.