City Slowly Reopening After New Year Holiday

Cambodia slowly began coming out of its celebratory state Thursday, although many are stretching out their leisure time by tacking a few more days to the Khmer New Year holiday.

Government offices re-opened Thursday morning after being closed all week, as did a fair number of businesses, and roads across the country were packed with people returning home from visiting relatives.

National Road 1 was hit hard, police said. Traffic jams up to 3 km long leading up to the Mekong River crossing at Neak Leung in Prey Veng province meant travelers had to wait hours for passage.

Traffic jams have plagued Road 1 from 9 am to 4 pm for the past few days, said Oun Sophanarith, traffic police chief for Prey Veng’s Peamro district. There was twice as much traffic compared to last year’s New Year’s holiday, he said.

“Our traffic policemen are working hard since April 16 from early morning to nighttime,” he said.

Fifteen people were injured, two critically, in five traffic accidents during the three-day holiday, said Siem Reap province traffic police chief Thorng Sokun. One person died in Kompong Thom province, where there were 11 major crashes during the holiday, according to provincial police chief Chea Son. Sihan­oukville traffic police Chief Seng Kosal said his municipality saw seven major accidents, resulting in one death and 19 injures.

In Phnom Penh, many stores remained shuttered Thursday with signs saying they would be closed until Monday. But markets that were entirely empty earlier this week had a smattering of vendors Thursday afternoon.

“Business has been good, which is good for me after the long holiday traveling,” said Sivgech Lim, who sells belts and bottles of perfume near Phsar Thmei’s east entrance.

But shops less frequently patronized by tourists appeared to have little sense of urgency about reopening Thursday.

Only three out of some two-dozen tailor shops at Phsar Tuol Tom Pong were operating, with a single sewing machine going. And the Phsar Tuol Tom Pong dining area—which is usually bustling with women boiling noodles and sizzling stir-fry—was all but empty.

“Some go to the seaside and many go to visit their homelands,” said Ayon Bounnareth, a 45-year-old man who has run an iced coffee shop at the market. Empty tables and cooking stoves surrounded him in every direction.

The government also officially reopened Thursday, said Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan.

“We work to serve many people,” he said, speaking from his office.

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