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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Safety is vital at Khmer New Year

Safety is vital at Khmer New Year

130410 07
A man checking the remains of burned houses. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

The most important thing in all our lives is our family.

No matter what happens, they are always the ones who stay by our side to encourage, support and assist us.

Families, too, are always non-judgemental about our weaknesses and failures.

Some people decide to move away from home so they can earn a better living and help support their family.

Because Phnom Penh is a big city where people can find jobs, pursue their studies and seek a better standard of living, many people move there.

Khmer New Year is a traditional ceremony. It’s the most important event of the year, and every family gathers to celebrate New Year’s Day.

At that time, people who live in the city always travel back to the provinces to be with their families. It’s a great time of the year.

Several days before Khmer New Year, people who live away from their homeland begin feeling very nostalgic and yearn for their families. It’s sad to be away from family on that day.

 Sin Nimol, 21, who has come to Phnom Penh to pursue her studies, says: “I couldn’t stand being here without my family because it’s the best time to be with them.

“I really miss them, especially on that day. When that day is coming up, I always feel very nostalgic about my family who are far away from me. I have to go to my homeland on that day.”

Nimol says she often visits her homeland when she has free time, but Khmer New Year is an occasion she cannot miss.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Dozen of passagers packed into a 12-seat taxi van. Photograph: Virak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Because everyone goes to visit their family on that day, a lot of people will be travelling to their home towns – so heavy traffic is also a concern.

Nimol always travels to her home town with friends from the same village because if something bad happens along the way, they can help one another. It’s better than
travelling alone.

At Khmer New Year, people leave the city to visit their family or a resort.

The problem is: how can they stay safe while they are travelling? And how can they secure their property in Phnom Penh while they’re away? Pov Somaly, 47, who own a grocery business, says: “On that day, I will go to visit my family because it’s a fabulous time of year. I always leave my home to celebrate with my family in my home town.

“The thing is, I care about my house; I worry there could be a fire.”

Somaly says she always makes sure she turns off all the electricity sources in her house before she leaves. She also ensures there is nothing easily flammable, such as gasoline, oil or gas, in her house.

It’s not just about securing the house before we leave – there are concerns about traffic as well.

According to The Phnom Penh Post, at least 48 people were killed and 344 injured on the roads in the capital and at popular tourist spots during Khmer New Year in 2012, and fire razed 16 homes in Phnom Penh.

Sok Serey Vuth, 32, who operates a taxi service between Phnom Penh and Kampot province, says: “I can earn a lot of money during that time, because I have many customers.

“But I always put safety first when I’m driving. I drive only in the daytime, and I care about my life as well.

“I never drive too fast or overnight, as life is something that can never be brought back. I value my life and my customers’ lives.”

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