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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Water Festival comes to close

Water Festival comes to close

Left, a worker dismantles a light boat, which illuminated the river during this year’s Water Festival. Right, a woman’s head is silhouetted against the dazzling display.

A sense of normality returned to the streets of Phnom Penh on Wednesday following the conclusion of the Water Festival as officials credited tight traffic controls in and outside the capital with holding traffic accidents to a minimum.

The municipality enforced a 10am-to-10pm no-vehicle zone encircling the main staging area of the three-day festival, as well as blockades outside the city to limit incoming traffic.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said stricter traffic controls created a drop in road accidents Kingdomwide.

“During the Water Festival, there were 68 traffic accidents across Cambodia,” he said, adding that the numbers were marginally lower than last
year, though he was unable to provide exact figures.

Restricted traffic zones, however, created snarls in surrounding neighbourhoods, where slow-moving tuk-tuks, motorbikes, cars and countryside trucks brimming with goods and people clogged the city’s major boulevards.

Meanwhile, Justice Ministry officials said that King Sihamoni would shortly issue a decision on the round of Royal pardons and sentence reductions that traditionally follows the Water Festival.

Pov Buntheoun, director of the Criminal Department of the Ministry of Justice, said that “there were about 160 prisoners around the country nominated for a reduced sentence and 30 nominated for a full pardon.” The list does not include Hang Chakra, the editor in chief of opposition Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, he added.

Heng Hak, director general of the General Department of Prisons at the Ministry of the Interior, explained that candidates are nominated by the prison chiefs themselves. To be eligible for a pardon, Heng Hak said, “prisoners must have already served two-thirds of their sentence, and prisoners nominated for a reduced sentence must have already served one-third of their sentence”.

Hang Chakra is serving a one-year sentence for disinformation and is technically ineligible. In August, however, a group of journalists unsuccessfully petitioned the King to grant him a special pardon, fuelling speculation that the King might use the Water Festival as an opportunity to free him.



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