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Officials prepare city for festival throngs

Officials prepare city for festival throngs

091027_03
Nu Loy from Takhmao repairs a boat for his village’s 22-seat women’s team in preparation for the Water Festival next week.

CITY authorities said Monday they will ban cars and buses from entering the capital for 12 hours a day during the forthcoming Water Festival, a measure aimed at coping with the massive crowds expected to rush into the city for the annual celebration.

Beginning Saturday, all cars, buses and tuk-tuks will be banned from travelling into Phnom Penh between 10am and 10pm each day.

All vehicles will also be banned between those hours in a high-traffic zone with the river to the east, Sihanouk Boulevard to the south, Norodom Boulevard to the west and Wat Phnom to the north. The measures end on November 4, the day after the festival.

“We are doing this to reduce traffic jams in the city during the festival,” said Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema.

The Water Festival, which takes place this year from Sunday to Tuesday, is one of the biggest events on the Cambodian calendar, swelling the city’s population by an estimated 2 million people each year.

This year, revellers can also expect a heavy police presence during the festival.

More than 6,500 officers, including municipal and military police, will be stationed throughout the city, said Touch Naruth, municipal police chief.
Authorities will also crack down on street vendors in the busiest areas near the river.

“We will not allow vendors to sell along the river, in front of the Royal Palace, Wat Botum and Hun Sen Park because we want to make our city beautiful, and we also want to protect the security of our high-level officials,” said Sok Penhvuth, deputy governor of Daun Penh district.

District officials are also hoping a liberal smattering of public toilets – one toilet every 50 to 100 metres along the river – will bring public urination to a halt.

“We will put about 50 mobile toilets around the ceremony area, from Hun Sen Park to Wat Phnom along the river,” Sok Penhvuth said.

In the run-up to the festival, city officials and police have also quickened an ongoing crackdown on beggars and other social outcasts, funneling them to “rehabilitation centres” in the name of security and public discipline.

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