Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Rowers on the Tonle Bassac at last year’s water festival in Phnom Penh.
RUSSEY Keo district Governor Khlaing Huot said that, unlike in previous years, authorities in Chruoy Changvar commune will not be permitted to lease privately-owned sections of the peninsula to vendors during the boat races on the Tonle Sap, one of the Water Festival's highlights.
"It won't impact those people just because we won't allow them to sell things during the festival. The celebration is to entertain people, it serves culture - not business," Khlaing Huot said.
He added that authorities plan to ask the hotel owners to remove fences blocking views of the boat races.
A development project by the Sokha Hotel is blocking off a 14-hectare riverside plot.
"We will ask them to replace their metal fences with nets because we want viewers to be able to see the whole ceremony," Khlaing Huot said.
A manager at the Sokha Hotel Group, who did not want to be named, told the Post that he has not yet received any information about preparations for the Water Festival, which runs from November 11 to 13, but said the company will not pull out fences surrounding its land in Chruoy Changvar for fear that construction materials could be stolen.
"We cannot pull out our fences since we are building now, and we are scared we will lose our construction materials," the manager said.
He added that the construction site will not obstruct views of the boat races because a strip of land will be available on the riverbank outside the site.
Pich Sareoun, Chruoy Changvar commune chief, said the area sees the arrival of thousands of provincial visitors for the three-day Water Festival, many of whom come to sell food, drinks and fruit to revellers.
In the past, he said, the authorities only maintained safety during the ceremony. "The villagers here always earn money by selling some food, drink, rice or fruits ... [but] they will not be able to make profit anymore, since the area is surrounded with fencing," he said.
"So far, we have received no information from the municipality ordering us to prepare the zone. In the past, the municipality and the company always negotiated with each other about the zone, and now we are just awaiting information from the municipality," Pich Sareoun said.