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Lack of Police 'Professionalism' Found in Bridge Disaster

A female victim of the deadly stampede, on Monday November 22, 2010, is carried onto a rescue truck, by Phnom Penh police. Hou Chanthy, 47, lost her daughter, said, "I'm thankful for the donations, but the donations will never compensate me.”

The government committee investigating last week's bridge disaster has said the police and military police must now be better trained for crowd management to avoid future incidents.

The investigating committee stopped short of placing direct responsibility on police, city or Water Festival authorities, after thousands of people stampeded on a crowded bridge, killing 351 and injuring 395 people Nov. 22.

Prum Sokha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior and head of the investigating committee, said the crowded situation on the bridge exceeded the “preparedness and capacity” of security forces. He recommended a “build-up of professionalism” for police and military police to better handle large crowds in the future.

Council Minister Sok An, who is overseeing the investigation and response to victims, said the Diamond Bridge tragedy was an experience the government intended to learn from.

“We must prepare a plan for the future to avoid a stampede like this,” he told reporters. “The accident is our largest experience for the government and the authorities. We must hold a meeting to deeply consider the experience and to increase the professionalism of authorities like the police and military police.”

The government will study better methods of crowd management, security response, emergency response and other aspects of disaster preparedness, he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday no one would be fired as a result of the disaster, and that no single person deserved the blame for what he called an accident caused by “carelessness.”

Meanwhile, families of victims have begun to receive donations from the public, the government and the owners of Koh Pich island. Each family is expected to receive a total $12,000 each from donations raised by television stations and other groups.

Hou Chanthy, 47, lost her daughter, Soung Channy, a garment worker, in the bridge stampede. She said she had so far received $5,000 and expected to receive more in coming days, through several distributions.

“I'm thankful for the donations,” she said. “But the donations will never compensate me.”