Thousands of government forces will be deployed to help with crowd control at this year’s Water Festival, while boaters, who won’t be allowed to camp out in the usual area across the river from the Royal Palace, will be allotted their own places to sleep, according to new measures that were announced by officials.
Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, said yesterday that 2,000 members of the military police will be on hand at the ceremony, which starts on November 5 and goes on for three days.
“They will be ready to cooperate with the national police forces to regulate public order and the traffic in the capital,” Tito explained, adding that 1,000 additional military police personnel will assist with first aid in case of an unexpected accident.
“We are preventing a repeat of the old incident from happening again,” he said, referring to a panicked stampede at the 2010 festival in which 353 were killed.
The festival has not been held since, with the government citing floods and the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk as the reasons for the cancellations.
In years past, those who raced along the Tonle Sap during the festival stayed along the eastern bank of the river. But with the paving of the promenade, boaters have been told to stay in pagodas and schools this year, Long Dimanche, spokesman for City Hall, said last month.
While he didn’t specify the locations, Kem Gunawadh, director general of state-owned broadcaster TVK, said yesterday that there are 10 locations in pagodas, schools and in the Phnom Penh Port area reserved for boaters during the three-day festival.
He added that 1,000 foreign tourists are expected to attend and that the government will advertise the festival on CNN.
“There will also be live concerts by the Ministry of Culture and private companies at Wat Botum, Wat Phnom, across the river in Chroy Changvar and at Freedom Park,” Gunawadh said.