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Water Festival cancelled

PM calls for Kingdom to focus on floods

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday announced that he had cancelled the annual Water Festival to preserve funds for addressing the effects of devastating floods that continue to sweep through the Kingdom.

Speaking at a special Council of Ministers meeting yesterday to assess damage from the flooding, the premier said that the annual three-day Water Festival celebrations next month, including the renowned boat races, would be cancelled and the money people saved could be used to aid flood recovery.

“Water levels are still higher than the warning levels in Phnom Penh and it would be a high-risk situation for boat racers and festival-goers,” Hun Sen said.

“Additionally, the suspension will save money in the national budget and allow us to divert funds that would be used for Water Festival preparations to provide assistance to flood victims.”

On the final day of last year’s Water Festival, 353 people were killed in a stampede on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Bridge. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post yesterday that Phnom Penh Municipality would coordinate commemorations to mark the disaster.

Yesterday, the premier told attendees at the meeting that flooding had destroyed more than 190,000 hectares of rice paddies, or 7.74 per cent of the total grown rice paddies, and affected another 390,000 hectares, or 16 per cent of the total rice paddies in the Kingdom.

Phay Siphan said that the death toll from the flooding had risen to 247, with 17 out of Cambodia’s 23 provinces suffering from its effects.

He added that despite widespread destruction of rice paddies, the government now had food security under control.

“Despite the high number of destroyed rice paddies, we will still have enough rice to meet exporting needs,” he said, adding that the government was positive that there would be enough rice production after the flooding receded to continue to ensure food security.

“We are trying to do what we can to look after the people,” he said.

Provincial governors have been instructed to remain in the provinces and are not permitted to travel until the flooding crisis eases, Phay Siphan said.

He also reasserted that the government did not need to call for international assistance to cope with the worst flooding to hit the Kingdom in more than a decade.

“We do not request international aid because everyone has their own problems,” he said. “It would be very difficult for us to request their help. For the time being donations and any charity are really appreciated.”

China, Singapore and the US have so far provided monetary and other donations to the Kingdom, Phay Siphan added. Vietnam has also contributed some assistance to Vietnamese communities in Cambodia and last week Japan donated a number of non-food emergency relief items.

Aid organisations have urged the government to call for international help to better coordinate the humanitarian response to the flooding.

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