With bottles, hoses, and the always-popular bucket, Cambodian children of all ages are getting ready to celebrate Khmer New Year starting Friday.
Water and talcum powder will fly during this year’s four-day holiday, as revelers drench passersby and rub powder on their faces in a messy, exuberant celebration.
“It is just fun, it will not cause any harm,” Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said. “But we should be cautious.”
Other community leaders, though, say they wish people would find other ways to celebrate the new year.
“Watering and powdering are not our traditional games,” said Chea Vannath, president of the Cambodian Center for Social Development. “They belong to Laos or Thailand. Authorities should use radio, TV or loudspeaker trucks to teach children not to do such things. I’m afraid this might cause danger to travelers, and it creates disorder.”
Chea Sophara, however, said the water game is marginally better than powdering, because thieves sometimes steal earrings when smearing powder on their victim’s faces. Although officials agree that children need to have fun, Chea Vannath suggested that the city create more places for children to go as a distraction from the water and powder throwing.
Chea Sophara said he is doing just that. From Friday through Monday, a series of events are planned at venues across the city.
TV3 will screen free outdoor movies, including the new Cambodian hit movie “Child of the Giant Snake,” at the eastern end of the park that extends from the train station to the Tonle Sap River, as well as a yet-undetermined spot across the river in Chea Sophara’s new riverside park in Chroy Chungvar.
In the park next to Wat Botum, TV5 will show films from 5 to 8 pm, while Bayon TV will organize concerts and comedians at Hun Sen Park. Traditional cultural events include Khmer traditional games in the morning and music, comedies and dramas.
Ayai and traditional dances will be held in the afternoon at Wat Phnom and in front of the National Museum. On Thursday at 7:30 am at city hall, officials will present alms to 207 monks invited to bless the city and express thanks to the King, the Queen and top government leaders.
Celebrations are also planned throughout the country. In Takeo province on Friday, hot air balloons will soar over the ancient temple at Phnom Chisor, said Kep Chutema, Takeo governor. Music, dance and other performances will take place at the foot of the hill, he said.
Although the tower atop Phnom Da is older, Kep Chutema said Phnom Chisor was chosen for the festival site as part of efforts to boost tourism.
Chea Sophara said the holiday is a time for Cambodians to think about the directions their lives are taking. As the pace of life gets faster and more demanding, he said, “It [behooves] us to get rid of bad acts and do good for the sake of ourselves, others, religion and society.”
He urged officials to warn people to be careful with fire, prohibit the sale of gambling paraphernalia including dice and cards, shooting guns and setting off firecrackers.
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)