The Battambang provincial administration has prohibited residents from crossing the 103-year-old bridge over Stung Sangke River to prevent further damage and the risk of collapse.

The provincial hall also announced plans to rebuild the bridge early next year while retaining its traditional architecture.

Provincial deputy governor Soeum Bunrith said on Monday that the bridge was built in 1916 during the French colonial era, and had been travelled on by heavy vehicles and tanks since the civil war.

“During previous floods, big trees fell on the bridge many times. It sustained damage since the war. Cracks have appeared and even the steel is rusty. So the bridge cannot be open for crossing anymore.

“By early next year, our provincial administration will begin bridge reconstruction because it cannot be left in its dilapidated state.

“We have made efforts to find professionals who can repair it but upon assessment, a technical working group said the bridge is too dilapidated and beyond repair,” said Bunrith.

He said the provincial hall is currently assessing a new bridge construction project on the same location, including assessment of expenses and donations.

On Friday, the provincial administration issued a notice prohibiting residents from crossing the bridge as it was no longer conducive to safe passage. While awaiting its reconstruction, residents were asked to use another bridge close to the old one.

“To prevent risks of the bridge suddenly collapsing, the provincial administration would like to inform the public to avoid crossing the old bridge from December 13 onwards,” the notice said.

Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Yin Mengly said although vehicles had been banned from crossing the bridge years ago, some residents continued to do so on foot.

“Some residents and students often sit on the bridge to play. Some of them even take photos of themselves on the bridge while others sit there to read books.

“So, the notice of the provincial administration was issued to warn residents of the risk of collapse because the bridge is old and damaged,” Mengly said.