Festival Draws Smaller Crowd on Second Day

The second day of the 2005 Wa­ter Festival featured smaller crowds than expected and less disorder than in previous years, officials said.

Mam Bun Neang, deputy municipal governor, forecast that 2 million people would be flocking in from the countryside for the event, though Tourism Minister Lay Pro­has said he believes less than 1 million visitors will attend.

“I think people were thinking that last year had so many people, so this year they came less,” he said. “The organization and preparation [for the festival] was much better than in previous years,” he added.

Mann Chhoeun, also a deputy municipal governor, said there have been few arrests so far.

“I don’t see many kids pick-pocketing other visitors,” he said.

“I think they may have forgotten to do that because the thieves are also enjoying the Water Festival.”

The international races between Cambodia and its neighbors also continued Wednesday.

The final results from Tuesday saw Cambodia beat Burma, Laos beat Burma, and Thailand beat Cam­bodia, while on Wednesday, Thailand defeated Vietnam, and Cambodia and Vietnam both beat Laos. China did not attend the festival as planned.

Squatting on the riverbank, Thai racers waited for the race against Vietnam while holding coins blessed by monks. Their blessings proved effective: Thailand won the neck and neck race.

Before the race, Vietnamese coach Dang Van Nhut said he was worried because his team had the outside lane in the Tonle Sap, which he said has slower waters.

Khom Douangchantha, an official accompanying the Laos team, said Laos did not put forward its top crew for the event, but a junior one from southern Laos.

Of the local teams, a boat sponsored by jailed Beehive Radio station owner Mam Sonando—nam­ed Moha Botum Sambok Khmum Meanchey, or the Great Beehive Victory—won its races Tuesday and Wednesday, including one against a boat sponsored by For­eign Min­ister Hor Namhong, ac­cord­ing to the Great Beehive Vic­tory’s captain Keo Rotha. He identified the Hor Namhong-sponsored boat as the Chumpou Bopha Mean Rith from Kompong Cham prov­ince.

“The boat paddlers and ordinary people are upset about Mr Mam Sonando who has done no fault but is jailed,” Keo Rotha said. “We want him released.”

Villagers from two districts in Siem Reap province complained that they missed the races because funding they expected to be provided by Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh for their boats failed to materialize.

Two boats named for Cham Prasidh, one from Prasat Bakong district and another from Sotr Nikom, did not make the race, Prasat Bakong district Governor Chao Sen said. Cham Nimol, Cham Prasidh’s cabinet chief and daughter, said her father returned the responsibility for funding the boats to Siem Reap province last year.

  (Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul and Erik Wasson)


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