For the first time in four years the annual Mekong River Festival and multi-sport gala, a celebratory event to pay tribute to Asia’s seventh longest river, is to be held within easy distance of Phnom Penh.
Running from March 9-11, the fourth edition of the Mekong River Festival will be held in Takhmao town, just 10-12km from the capital.
Launched in Kratie province three years ago, jointly by the Ministry of Tourism and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, in conjunction with local authorities and private sponsors and partners, Kampong Cham and Stung Treng hosted the next two editions.
With Takhmao so close to Phnom Penh, hundreds of thousands from the city are expected to attend the festival and watch the nine-sport programme and other cultural activities.
For the thronging masses, there will be plenty of popular sports competitions including swimming, boating, a fun run, cycling, football, volleyball, Khmer chess, kun Khmer kickboxing and wrestling.
Enhancing the entertainment value will be Cambodia-Vietnam contests in both football and volleyball.
While the focus during the festival, being sponsored this year by Cambodia Beverages, will be on highlighting the Mekong as an indispensable source of sustainable life and the key role the river has played over the centuries in shaping the lives of the people living along its path, a huge cultural element has also been built into the celebrations.
“The Mekong provides a sustainable lifeline for thousands in Cambodia, and this three-day festival is to raise awareness among people to keep it pollution-free so that communities can prosper from its enormous resources,” said secretary-general of the NOCC Vath Chamroeun.
The transboundary Mekong, which originates in the Tibetan plateau, covers an estimated 4,350km, flowing through China’s Yunan province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia before joining the sea in Vietnam.
One of the main objectives behind organising the Mekong River Festival every year is to complement the Sea Festival, a national initiative to celebrate coastal and marine life, held towards the end of the year.
In 1995, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission to assist in the coordinated management and use of the Mekong's resources. The following year China and Myanmar became dialogue partners of the MRC and the six countries now work together within this joint framework.