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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sadness for lost crew

Sadness for lost crew

The three day Water Festival races and celebration, marred by the drowning of six

rowers, attracted 440 boats this year from all over Cambodia as well as nine ASEAN

countries.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, who organized the international boats that entered

the races, said all of the ASEAN countries except Myanmar participated during the

annual Water Festival.

Khon said he was not sure whether the international boats will come next year. "We

organize international boat racing to attract foreign visitors," he said.

He said he regretted the drowning of the five Singaporean rowers whose boat capsized

on the first day of races in swirling water. "We are very sorry for this unexpected

incident. We tried our best to rescue them," Thong Khon said. "This is

an experience on which we will improve."

Authorities estimated that four million people came to the capital for the festivities,

which stretched from the Independence Monument to the Hun Sen park, Preach Meruh

field and along Sothearos and Sisowath Boulevards lining the riverfront.

The riverfront was jammed as visitors crowded in to watch fireworks, the parade of

lighted floats and listen to music.

About 3,400 forces from police and military police deployed on the streets in the

capital aiming to keep security and social order during the Water Festival.

Nhem Valy, deputy secretary general of the Permanent Committee for Organizing the

National and International Ceremony said the government spent roughly $375,000 for

the events.

This year 142 boats took first place, 133 took second, 114 took third and 42 took

fourth, which means they lost all of their races in the three-day competition.

Nhim Vanda, first deputy president of the National Committee for Disaster Management,

said the colorful dragon boat carrying 22 Singaporeans hit a swirl in the strong

currents and capsized at the Phnom Penh Port on the evening of November 23. Although

17 rowers were rescued, the other five were not found until two days later about

2 km downstream.

"We do not want such incidents happening," said Vanda. He led a 300-force

operation to search for the dead. "Next year we will use a net to cover the

area."

Vanda said the families of the Singaporean rowers arrived in Cambodia a day after

the boat capsized along with Singaporean diving experts equipped with light sonar,

but they were unable to find the bodies.

A Cambodian rower drowned and two rowers were injured when their boats struck each

other.

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