Following Monday’s Diamond Bridge tragedy, nearly $1.5 million has come in from concerned Cambodians via fund drives by two TV stations, for both the families of the dead and for those injured.
By Friday evening, Bayon TV had raised more than $1.08 million and CTN had brought in more than $500,000.
A total 347 people died on the bridge and another 395 were injured, when a mass of Water Festival revelers stampeded on the crowded bridge Monday night.
The country’s worst tragedy in decades was felt across Cambodia and in expatriate Cambodian communities abroad, culminating in a national day of mourning Thursday.
CTN and Bayon have continuously taken donations, at time broadcasting pleas for aid and running donation totals during regular programming.
Officials from both stations said they would end their fund drives Friday and aim to distribute the money to families of the dead next week.
Hout Kheang Heng, deputy director general of TV and Radio Bayon, which is operated by the prime minister’s daughter, said 100 percent of the fundraising would go directly to victims as cash. Teams will travel to the villages where the families or survivors live or to hospitals to deliver the money, he said.
Chhun Kosal, deputy director of CTN’s fundraising committee, said so far with about 85 percent of the donations counted, the station has raised $420,000 and 373 million riel, or $93,000. They will also deliver 100 percent of the cash to survivors and relatives next week, he said.
Both said the relatives of the dead would receive more than survivors.
However, members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and a workers union representative said they are skeptical the money will reach the hands of those it was meant for.
That’s because during similar fundraising for soldiers stationed near a border dispute with Thailand since 2008, there was little transparency and it remains unclear where the money went, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Teacher’s Association.
A similar problem could plague the donation efforts for the bridge victims, he said.
“I really admire both stations for opening fundraising,” he said. “It shows that Khmer love Khmer. But what I’m worried about is that the expenditure of funds will not be transparent for the victims.”