Skip to main content

PM: No punishments for deadly Cambodian stampede

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Cambodia mourns stampede victims
  • Prime minister: "We have to learn a lesson from this to solve such problems in the future"
  • 347 people were killed when swaying suspension bridge caused panic
  • The water festival will return next year, prime minister says

(CNN) -- Last week's deadly stampede during an annual festival won't result in criminal punishments, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday in a speech broadcast on state television.

"No one will receive punishment for this incident," he said at the opening of a new government building in Phnom Penh. "We have to learn a lesson from this to solve such problems in the future."

Government investigators said last Wednesday that a suspension bridge swayed as thousands of people attempted to cross it during the annual water festival. The swaying apparently led to fears it would collapse, triggering the stampede.

Police fired water cannons to get people to continue moving across the footbridge, which leads to an island in the center of a river. "That just caused complete and utter panic," Steve Finch of the Phnom Penh Post told CNN after the November 22 incident.

What caused panic on suspension bridge?
Hundreds killed in stampede
Stampede in Cambodia kills hundreds

The government said 347 people were killed and hundreds of others were injured in the incident.

The prime minister said during the speech that the government must accept that it had not been able to handle the situation, which he blamed on carelessness and poor evaluation, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

The paper also reported that Hun Sen declared that the water festival would go on again next year.

The three-day Water Festival is held each November to honor a victory by Cambodian naval forces during the 12th century reign of King Jayavarman VII, according to the country's tourism website.

During the festival, which includes boat races, participants pray for a good rice harvest and enough rain, and celebrate the full moon, the site says.

Visalsok Nou, a Cambodian Embassy official in Washington, said more than 4 million people were attending the festival when the stampede occurred.

The country has set up a commission to look into the incident.