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PPenh braces for Om Tuk

PPenh braces for Om Tuk

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4-story-103.jpg

As Cambodians already begin filtering into the city for next week's Water Festival, traffic becomes a major concern for Phnom Penh officials this year

Photo by: VANDY RATTANA

Workers put up temporary stands along the river that will be used during next week's Water Festival, or Om Tuk, celebrations. 

MORE than 10,000 security personnel will be posted on Phnom Penh's streets as the capital heads into a week of holidays that will see millions of visitors descend on the city, officials said Sunday.

Starting with Independence Day on November 9 and culminating five days later with the end of the annual Water Festival, city authorities say they will have to tackle a host of problems.

Chief among these are keeping order on the roads to preventing tens of thousands of revellers from packing too tightly into Phnom Penh's narrow riverfront to view the three days of  Om Tuk boat races.

Ya Kim Ey, chief of Phnom Penh's Military Police, told the Post that street and building closures in past years have backed up traffic around key sites.

"According to previous reports, we have seen problems in areas where many people like to gather - particularly near the Royal Palace," he said.

Streets are closed on both sides and people get trapped in traffic jams," Ya Kim Ey added.

He added that police will be deployed at additional sites this year to lessen congestion caused by street closures.

Most of the riverfront will be closed to vehicle traffic during the Water Festival.

"We know the Royal Palace is the area of most concern, but we're also concerned about the Chruoy Changvar bridge, which is a major artery for travellers and also the site of many road accidents during holidays," Mom Sarin, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, told the Post. "But we have enough forces, so it would be better to close some areas to traffic," he added.

WE HAVE SEEN PROBLEMS IN AREAS WHERE MANY PEOPLE LIKE TO GATHER.

Phnom Penh's Unity Committee, which is responsible for helping organise the festivities, said in a statement that some 5,353 military police will join a contingent of 4,000 municipal police and 653 gendarmerie.
Protecting key areas

The Unity Committee said security forces will be concentrated in several areas where large crowds are expected to gather, including around the Independence Monument, along Sothearos Boulevard, at the park in front of the Royal Palace and at Wat Phnom.

Sok Sambath, deputy chief of Daun Penh district, said wherever people congregate, security forces also have problems with the accumulation of unauthorised vendors, who further add to congestion.

"Security forces have tried to maintain order in past years, but we have seen many vendors enter forbidden areas with no fear of police guarding the area," he said.

Petty crime is also a concern, with theft a common complaint in areas where thousands of festival goers are often packed shoulder to shoulder, officials said.

Mom Sarin said last week's meeting has allowed city and security personnel to better prepare for the coming days.

"Procedures will get better and better as we learn from past experiences," Mom Sarin said.

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