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After Blessing, Diamond Bridge Reopens To Traffic

Monks prayed for happiness and safety Wednesday at a ceremony to reopen the bridge in the Cambodian capital where at least 353 revelers were trampled to death in the riverside tragedy.

Diamond Bridge, the site of the deadly Nov. 22 festival stampede, re-opened to the public on Wednesday, just two weeks after a tragedy that shocked the country and left more than 350 dead.

After an opening ceremony led by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, a group of monks from the city’s pagodas led a water blessing to clear the bridge of its misfortune.

About 100 people gathered for the ceremony, and when it was finished, they crossed the bridge to Diamond Island, the site of a commercial development that has struggled since the disaster.

“Today is a good day,” Kep Chuktema told reporters. “We’ve reopened the bridge in order to get more tourists to visit Phnom Penh. The Cambodian government intends to have the Diamond Center, because when this develops, Phnom Penh develops, and when the city develops, the Kingdom of Cambodia develops too.”

Diamond Center is a commercial center with shops, restaurants and banquet halls for weddings that was originally opened in 2009 and closed for several days following the bridge stampede.

Mok Sarith, a 30-year-old cleaner at the Diamond Center, said he agreed with the bridge reopening.

“This bridge is just a tourist site in Phnom Penh,” he said. “And we will get more tourists here after the bridge is open.”

But at least some bridge survivors said they did not want to see the bridge reopened so soon—if ever.

Ros Kong, who was on the bridge the night of the stampede, when thousands of people panicked as they were crushed together after Water Festival celebrations, said the government should keep the bridge as a closed historical site and a memorial for those who died.

“For me, I don’t trust that bridge from now and for another 10 years,” he said. “I’ll never forget what happened that day.”

Kim Sour Phirith, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the government should be considerate of the feelings of victims and how they might be affected by the opening of the bridge.

“In my idea, the Cambodian government could close the bridge and keep it as an isolated site for tourists to visit,” he said.

A new bridge should be built for business to Diamond Island, he said.

Kep Chuktema said the owners of the Diamond Center would build two more bridges in coming months to prevent a future disaster.