'No punishments' over Cambodian stampede

2010-11-29 14:19

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Prime Minister said on Monday that nobody will be brought to justice over a festival stampede last week that left more than 350 people dead, adding the tragedy was the result of a "joint mistake".

"Nobody will be punished for the incident," Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a new government building in the capital.

"We were careless," he added. "This was a joint mistake that nobody expected."

Cambodia's annual water festival ended in tragedy last Monday after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge leading to an island that was one of the main event sites.

A total of 351 people lost their lives, the majority of them women, and questions have been raised over who is to blame for the tragedy.

Authorities have said a full report on the incident would be released in the coming days.

Initial findings from the investigating committee suggest the stampede occurred after rumours rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge to Phnom Penh's Diamond Island was about to collapse.

"The tragedy started with our wrong assessment of the situation," said Hun Sen, who has described the stampede as Cambodia's worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

The three-day festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.