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Water Fest eyes foreign visitors

Workers on the riverfront at Sisowath Quay prepare a light display for the first Water Festival to be held in Phnom Penh since 2010
Workers on the riverfront at Sisowath Quay prepare a light display for the first Water Festival to be held in Phnom Penh since 2010. Hong Menea

Water Fest eyes foreign visitors

Expecting thousands of international tourists to travel to Phnom Penh for the first Water Festival held since 2010, the National Committee for Organizing National and International Festivals plans to set up several services catering specifically to foreigners.

State-run Agence Kampuchea Presse reported yesterday that the Ministry of Tourism is working with several travel agencies to provide translation, preferential seating and other services for foreign visitors.

“This festival is very colourful compared to Pchum Ben, compared to Khmer New Year,” Kem Gunawadh, director-general of state-run television station TVK, told the Post. “Everybody comes to see" the boat races.

Gunawadh, who has covered each Water Festival since 1989, yesterday said traffic jams are the largest concern for the city, as both Cambodian and foreign tourists flock into Phnom Penh. Of Cambodia’s major holidays, the festival draws the most tourists into the capital, he said.

Much of TVK’s broadcast will be filmed from a concrete border on the east side of the festival, to get shots amid the hordes of people, Gunawadh said.

Four officials from the Tourism Ministry either referred questions from a Post reporter to other administrators within the ministry or could not be reached.

In addition to tourist-friendly outposts, police will step up security during the three-day festival beginning on November 5, National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said last week.

There will be some 2,000 military police on hand for the festival, and additional forces deployed in the capital will handle issues ranging from traffic to unexpected accidents, according to Tito.

A stampede at the last Water Festival, held nearly four years ago, led to the deaths of 353 people on a bridge leading to Koh Pich, or Diamond Island. The deaths occurred when panic broke out on a desperately overcrowded and bottle-necked bridge.

Last year, 1.7 million more foreign tourists visited Cambodia than in 2010, the year the stampede occurred, according to data released by the Ministry of Tourism.

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