Festival Feels Economic Pinch

In this year of economic crisis, the Water Festival budget comes in lower than in years past, at $200,000.

The much-loved fireworks display will be repeated, using locally produced as well as Chinese fireworks. In the past, all the fireworks came from China. In an effort to save money, the festival’s organizing committee will launch the fireworks from the land between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, rather than from a rented ferry.

Still, the organizing committee expects the same attendance as in recent years for the immensely popular festival: close to 1 million people from Phnom Penh and the provinces.

In preparation for the event, the Phnom Penh Municipality is setting up 50 toilets throughout the Wat Botum and Veal Mien areas and inside schools.

Thirty thousand condoms also will be distributed this week— three to each racer and male spectator. “We do not know how to stop them from going to brothels, and also we could not close down the brothels. The Ministry of Health is worried about the number of people infected with AIDS now,” said Veng Thai, director of the mun­icipality’s department of health.

The Department of Health will station eight ambulances on the waterfront for sick or injured festival-goers.




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