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Water Fest, sans unrest

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Fireworks over the Tonle Sap as part of Water Festival celebrations. Hong Menea

Water Fest, sans unrest

Despite some prefestival jitters over the possibility of protests in the capital, officials yesterday said the Water Festival went smoothly over the weekend, with nearly 3 million observers in attendance. Despite a reportedly larger crowd than last year, crime during the festival was low, said Touch Naroth, Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief.

The main problem plaguing authorities, he said, were cases of children being separated from their parents. “There were 58 cases of missing children. Fifty-seven are solved, but one case remains. We are waiting for the parents to come pick up their child . . . For these three days there were just a few cases of pick-pocketing and [bag] snatching,” Naroth said.

City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said the 3 million attendees included both Phnom Penh locals and rural Cambodians who travelled to the capital for the festivities. He said garbage disposal continued to be a problem, but that clean-up had improved compared to last year, when workers were caught on video after the festival sweeping mounds of garbage into the Tonle Sap river.

“We added 2,000 rubbish bins. At night they collected the rubbish . . . People are becoming more civilised, not just throwing the garbage on the ground,” he said.

Soum Cheng, a 26-year-old motodop, noticed an increase in security forces this year, with police, Military Police and Hun Sen’s personal Bodyguard Unit out in the crowds and on street corners since last week. “I felt safe,” he added.

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