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Festival ends on a high note

King Norodom Sihamoni waves to crowds yesterday.
King Norodom Sihamoni waves to crowds yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Festival ends on a high note

Crowds more than triple on final day of Water Festival, City Hall says

Third day of races wrapped up the formal part of Cambodia’s Water Festival yesterday – and a number of high-ranking officials were left enjoying the spoils of success after vessels they sponsored were winners.

As crowds to the city more than tripled following the low numbers of the first two days, King Sihamoni presented awards to some of the victors.

The eight winning teams, out of more than 240 boats, received their awards based on overall racing performance or design and appearance.

Royalty, rowers and revelry

As is the case most years, a boat sponsored by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An was named one of the fastest.

Other award winners included boats sponsored by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong and Chairman of the National Authority for Land Dispute and Resolution Bin Chhin.

But Yim Dip, 29, who rowed on the Kheng-sponsored vessel, said his team’s award was purely the result of hard work.

“We rarely hear the word failure in our team,” he said. “We’ve won because our boat is the most beautiful.”

Not so lucky this year were boats carrying the name of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Of all the boats that entered, 58 per cent carried the name “Senchey” – a reference to the premier. But only one of them picked up an award – and it was sponsored by An.

After a slow start, crowds appeared to grow yesterday. Young people especially were out enjoying the live entertainment, street stalls and sideshows.

Long Dimanche, City Hall spokesman, estimated on Thursday that crowds were only at about 300,000. He was confident that numbers had grown yesterday.

“Nearly one million people have come to the city today,” he said. “But just because the boats have finished, it does not mean it is over. People will still come and enjoy the festival tonight.”

Sary, 55, a porridge vendor renting space outside the Supreme Court, was hoping for a late run of customers.

“On the first day, I could not make a profit. Then the second day, I earn little bit,” she said. “But this last day, I had many customers. I hope to keep selling until midnight, because I have to pay $100 rent.”

As of late yesterday, more than 5,000 people had received medical treatment, said municipal health director Sok Sokun.

“Only two people have been sent to Calmette. Our officials have been on high alert after 2010,” he said, referring to the stampede that killed 353 people.

Additional reporting by May Titthara and Shane Worrell

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