Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Party in the streets is just beginning

Party in the streets is just beginning

Party in the streets is just beginning

2-3-Big-pic12.jpg
2-3-Big-pic12.jpg

Photo by:
Heng Chivoan

Tith Hing, 75, busks with his cha pei, or Cambodian lute, on Phnom Penh's riverside on Tuesday, the first day of the Water Festival celebrations.

Festival's size expected to create challenges for city

WHAT started as a trickle of people over the weekend by Tuesday night had become a mass of tens of thousands of mostly homeless - at least temporarily - Cambodians.      

This sudden convergence of people, while by no means unusual for any Water Festival, is challenging both those trying to enjoy three days of fun and the authorities expected to keep order in the largest Bon Om Tuk celebration ever.

"Those who don't have relatives to stay with, we encourage them to stay at pagodas," said Him Yan, chief of the Municipal Public Order Police.

"We don't want them staying near the riverside celebrations because its impacts on the beauty of our city," he added.

Still, thousands could be seen camped under makeshift tent covers or in the open air in parks and on street kerbs.

While some accepted that these instant tent villages springing up in Phnom Penh's riverside neighbourhoods did not add to the charm of the festival, others - many of whom came from quiet provincial hamlets - said they were concerned for their security is forced deeper into the city seeking shelter.

Scared but happy

"We are from the provinces and are afraid that some young criminals will come look for us in the night and want to steal from us," said Battambang native So Leang, describing how police ordered him out of a riverside park his first night in Phnom Penh.

"It's is good for me to stay here because there are a lot of others with me too," he added.

"Even though it is difficult and unsafe for us to stay here, I am really happy with the Water Festival. It's a big ceremony for the Cambodian people and I want to see the boat racing."

But the very popularity of the celebration is also what makes it the hardest to monitor, said Tin Prasoeur, chief of Phnom Penh's Traffic Police.

"We have thousands of police to take care of security, but there are four million people coming and no room on the riverside for them," he said.

WATER FESTIVAL

Event schedule

Today

11am to 5:30pm

Dragon boat races continue on the Tonle Sap

6:30pm

Fireworks over the Tonle Sap. Lighted barges, representing government ministries and departments, set sail at the same time along the riverfront (until midnight)

Thursday
11am to 5pm: Boats begin competing in final day of races

4pm:  Royal family members arrive at the main riverfront stage, along with parliamentarians and other government officials

4:15pm: Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives

4:30pm: King Norodom Sihamoni arrives at the main stage to present awards to the winning dragon boats

6:30pm: A grand finale of fireworks will commence, accompanied by the lighted barges

MOST VIEWED

  • EU officials: Ending EBA an 18-month procedure

    EU officials have confirmed that it will take a total of 18 months to complete the procedure if Cambodia’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement is to be withdrawn. According to EU Agriculture and Rural Development spokesman Daniel Rosario, the formal process has not

  • IPU slams government claim

    The president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Gabriela Cuevas Barron, has refuted a claim by the National Assembly that she “highly appreciated the achievements of Cambodia” in its July national elections with a tweet saying “Of course not!” before adding “No congratulations”. A delegation from

  • Conflict lingers on Paris Accords

    As the Kingdom prepares to commemorate on October 23 the 27th anniversary of the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which ushered in an end to nearly two decades of civil war, there is political conflict on whether the tenets of the agreement are still being

  • EU agrees VN trade deal despite rights concerns

    The EU on Wednesday agreed to a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam, a country described as having a “major rights-abusing government”. This comes amid the 28-nation bloc preparing the procedure for a possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade agreement on