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Date set for this year’s Water Festival holiday

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Thousands of people crowd Phnom Penh’s riverside to watch traditional boat races during Water Festival celebrations in 2014. Photo supplied

Date set for this year’s Water Festival holiday

The Committee for Organising National and International Festivals (CRNIF) said the Kingdom will mark this year’s Water Festival on November 21-23.

CRNIF permanent deputy director Chhin Ketana told The Post on Tuesday that the committee had informed the relevant institutions, especially at provincial levels, to get boat rowers of all types ready, both physically and technically, for the three-day festivities, which normally draw large crowds from throughout the Kingdom.

“Rowers have to be physically fit, in good health and able to swim. All boats joining the race also have to be decorated in Khmer style. The boats should be fast and have a clear background,” he said.

Despite less than three weeks away, Ketana said CRNIF had neither held a meeting to discuss budget plans for the event nor announced specific dates to submit applications.

The festival has had a rocky history over the past years. On the event’s last day in 2010, 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.

In 2011 and 2013, the government cancelled the festival, citing mass flooding, whereas the death of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk weeks before the festival was given as the reason for its cancellation in 2012.

The event was also cancelled at the last minute in 2015, despite assurances from Prime Minister Hun Sen that the celebrations would go on.

While the government blamed low water levels due to an ongoing drought, many concluded fear of an influx of visitors at a time when political tensions were high as the real reason.

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