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Capital readies Water Festival safety measures

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Dragon boat crews take part in races as part of Water Festival celebrations on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh in November last year. Hong Menea

Capital readies Water Festival safety measures

The Phnom Penh municipal administration is preparing forces and fine-tuning measures to maintain public order, security and safety during the three-day Water Festival from November 10-12.

Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Meth Meas Pheakdey told The Post on Tuesday that for the festival to be successful, peaceful and enjoyable for everyone, public safety and security must be guaranteed.

“We are preparing our forces to develop a plan to divide people into different areas so no one place becomes overcrowded.

“We have to protect people in the suburbs and the city centre and manage traffic entering and leaving the capital via our six national roads. There are many things to consider.

“The aim is to guarantee that our citizens do not face any difficulties. Let’s celebrate the Water Festival and our traditions,” he said.

On Monday, Phnom Penh municipal governor Khoung Sreng led a preparatory meeting attended by representatives of all 14 district administrations and relevant departments and authorities to ensure the maintenance of public order, security and safety, a post on the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall’s Facebook page said on Monday.

On the last day of the 2010 Water Festival, which saw nearly a million visitors pack into the capital, thick crowds resulted in a bottleneck on a bridge leading to Koh Pich. The resulting panic saw 353 people killed in a stampede as the crowd surged forward.

Since then, great effort has been made by the authorities to learn from the experience and develop more detailed and comprehensive safety measures, Meas Pheakdey said.

“What about our citizens? What can they do help public security? If they have any suspicions, they should just inform the police. Our authorities will take action because there will be a lot of police deployed at the event.

“We’re expecting a large number of people to come and enjoy the festival as usual and are confident it will be a tremendous success,” he said.

People Centre for Development and Peace president Yong Kim Eng told The Post on Tuesday that public order and security should be the authorities’ top priority.

“The main concern is overcrowding. The authorities must take timely action to resolve any issues and be able to manage the situation in a way that does not cause chaos or a stampede.

“Loudspeakers should be available to keep people informed in emergencies and help ensure they don’t panic,” he said.

Kim Eng said the police should be stationed to monitor bag snatchers and any criminal activity so people can attend the event peacefully.

“The police should also keep an eye on people’s homes because many properties will be left unoccupied while people attend the event. We’ve heard stories of burglaries during the festival,” he said.

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