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On the road for Pchum Ben


Cambodians take off for their hometowns in an annual exodus to the games, races and other celebrations of the holiday, with only 18 killed on the road.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan/Sovan Philong
Competitors get into the clinch during a wrestling competition (left) at Kandal province’s Wat Vihear Sour on Saturday as Cambodia celebrated Pchum Ben. Elsewhere in the province, others participated in boat races (right) to mark the holiday, known as the festival of the dead.

SOME MINOR CONFLICTS DID HAPPEN, BUT THEY ARE NOT BIG CONCERNS.

Whether it was racing boats and buffalo or throwing a gala at the pagoda, Cambodians celebrated the culmination of Pchum Ben in style over the weekend.

Residents flocked back to villages and towns around the Kingdom to commemorate the annual festival honouring the souls of their dead ancestors.

In Kampong Chhnang province, some villages took part in boat races along the Tonle Sap. In Kandal province’s Vihear Suor village, highlights included racing buffalo and wrestling. A more spiritual experience was found in pagodas, where gifts were offered to monks.

With the colossal exodus came trouble on congested streets. Eighteen people died on the roads during the weekend, and another 300 were injured in what officials say is a slight drop in road accidents from last year.

Officials recorded 125 road accidents between Friday and Sunday, according to the National Police’s department of public order. Of the injured, 148 were considered “seriously injured”
whereas 131 people escaped with minor injuries. Officials attributed the modest dip to a strict crackdown by traffic police in the run-up to the weekend’s festivities.

Even so, Him Yan, deputy director of the department of public order at the National Police, said there was still some “awful” driving on the country’s roads. “Even though the number of road accidents decreased, we still regret that some problems still happened,” Him Yan said Monday.

“We have noticed speeding still happened, and some people still ride motorbikes and drive cars very awfully, carelessly and in a disorderly manner, which caused road accidents and traffic jams.”

Him Yan said police found roughly half of the vehicles on the roads were speeding. “In response to this issue, we still continue to enforce the law by putting up restrictions little by little until we can stop people from speeding and drunken people from driving,” he said.

Him Yan said speeding was the biggest cause of road accidents. Officers would enforce speed limits of 30km/h to 40km/h in cities and towns and 70km/h to 90km/h outside cities.

Just as road accidents dropped slightly, problems caused by what officials are calling “spoiled youngsters” around the country also appeared to dip during the Pchum Ben Festival weekend.

Banteay Meanchey province deputy police Chief Hun Hean attributed a drop in problems with “spoiled youngsters” to an ongoing crackdown on juvenile delinquency.

Hun Hean collected six youths involved in a fight at a pagoda on Saturday. “I saw that disturbing activities committed by spoiled youngsters decreased a lot compared to last year’s Pchum Ben Festival,” he said.

Yim Mengly, a provincial investigator for the rights group Adhoc in Battambang province, said he noticed much less rowdy behaviour this weekend from young ruffians. “I did not see any big violent fights or clashes,” he said “Some minor conflicts did happen, but they are not big concerns.”

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