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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Local firework makers to compete against Chinese

Local firework makers to compete against Chinese

lOCAL fireworks producers want to demonstrate their products

alongside those from China to show they are just as good and at the same time maybe

learn a few secrets from their competitors.

Putting on fireworks displays can be a big business with the likes of the Wat Phnom

inauguration ceremony consuming almost $10,000 worth in a matter of only 15 minutes.

But the local producers have often been over-looked in favor of Chinese-produced

pyrotechnics which they acknowledge have had the edge in the past on quality, but

have been vastly more expensive.

Now they seem to be getting some support at civic and national level.

Phnom Penh vice governor Chea Sophea opted for the local product at the Wat Phnom

ceremony.

He said the quality was good and the price even better.

"It's not as good as the fireworks from China but almost. And it is still good

to use because they are much cheaper than those from China," he said.

But the producers best hope is support from Min Kin, the director of Cambodian National

Ceremonies.

He is keen to bring in experts from China to teach local producers, particularly

after several nasty accidents when locals tried some experiments aimed at improving

quality.

"They tried to produce fireworks they thought would be good but they did not

know anything about the formula, so there have been accidents," he said.

He said the producers are keen to learn and improve their art.

"The explosion, sound and height are as good as the Chinese fireworks but the

Cambodian fireworks cannot spread out colors quite as well," he said.

Meanwhile, four manufacturers have approached him already about the water festival,

wanting to help put on the display and they offered the fireworks very cheaply.

"They want to learn more about producing their own fireworks and they also want

to test their fire works to see how good they are compared to the fireworks from

China when the two products are displayed together.

Kin said that he had asked the Government for funding for three fireworks displays

for the year the Water Festival, the King's Birthday and National Day although he

realized that the Government had other priorities at the moment.

"It is good to display, good for our people to look at.

"It is not good though when we spend a lot of money for this kind of thing and

the people in the provinces have nothing," the master of ceremonies said.

However fireworks are an industry that does bring money into the provinces.

Most of the producers are farmers who make the fireworks to help them eke out a living.

Most are situated in Kampong Speu and Takeo.

Those spoken to by the Post said that they had been having a hard time making a living

recently.

Son Sorn, 35, had started his business last year when he learned from the people

near by that it could be a good business.

His uncle taught him manufacturing techniques.

He said he had no problem selling what he produced but he lacked the capital to keep

stock on hand so he has to ask customers to wait for a bit while he makes them.

It seemed to be a common problem.

A neighboring producer said their business had gone well but had now been shut done

because they just could not make enough money.

The only one that seemed to be prospering was the one which locals saywas the best

producer.

It was a family business run under the guidance of the father, Lam.

It is run out of a small shed at the front of the property.

Lam is one of those producers who has been asking the authorities to give him a chance

to demonstrate his product against those of the Chinese.

He said he had produced the display for Wat Phnom but it was done on a break-even

basis.

He now hopes that he and his colleagues will be granted the water festival contract.

Lam says he learned his craft from his father, Uch Lam, who produced fireworks for

Royalty in the 1960s.

"I had not been trained in this kind of knowledge at school. I learned from

father. My father is a former fire work producer in the Royal Palace," he said.

And, in turn, Lam is now passing his knowledge on to his 13-year-old son whom he

said can already produce a variety of rockets and smaller fireworks.

However he has yet to learn the secrets of Lam's largest and most impressive display

firework.

This is a massive cannonball shaped projectile that is launched 300 meters into the

air from a home-made mortar.

It then explodes, sending out showers of color over a 100-meter diameter sphere.

It takes 10 days to make and costs 50,000 riel.

For people on a more modest budget skyrockets can be had for as little as 800 riel.

On the day the Post visited the lower end of the market was being catered for.

Family members had rolled the cardboard wrappers for the rockets.

Then about a dozen pellets, little bigger than grains of rice were poured in.

These produce the stars at the top of the rockets' flight.

Then a small amount of "flash" powder is added this explodes and shoots

the stars out.

After that home-made gunpowder is added as a propellant.

Lam said all the materials were sourced locally and most of the chemicals came from

the Russian market.

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