Many classrooms and government offices remained empty on Tuesday, but government officials nonetheless rejected the possibility that Chinese New Year could become an official national holiday.
Malis Roth, an ethnic Chinese Cambodian who teaches at Boeng Keng Kang High School, said he went to work as usual but found no students in attendance.
“How can we teach if there are no students?” he asked. “I think it is only in Phnom Penh, because there are many Chinese Cambodians in the city. I traveled to [Kandal province’s] Kien Svay district, and students there have classes.”
But Blang Samnang, an investigating judge at Sihanoukville Municipal Court, said some of his colleagues were still on unofficial holiday on Tuesday, too.
Chea Kean, deputy director of the secretariat general for the Permanent Organizing Commission for National and International Ceremonies, conceded that many officials were taking the extra days off without repercussions.
However, he said the holiday should not be enshrined in law because Cambodia already has its own Khmer New Year celebration in April among the 25 officially recognized national holidays.
“We never have Chinese New Year as our holiday,” Chea Kean said. “They have to know what is Khmer. We have different religions and beliefs…. We have rules, customs and annual holidays defined by sub-decree. We cannot go over it.”
Secretariat Director and Ministry of Cult and Religion Secretary of State Min Khin said government officials are not allowed to take time off for Chinese New Year.
“We already have so many holidays,” he added.
Sok Chay, a clothing vendor at Phsar Tuol Tumpong, said that although he was an ethnic Chinese Cambodians, the new year should not be made an official holiday.
“We have different traditions. Khmer has its own. Chinese has its own. Cham has its own,” Sok Chay said.
But even if the holiday is not recognized, many will continue to take it.
“We are Khmer-Chinese-blood, so we must pay respect to our ancestors. Nine among ten will take the holiday,” Sok Chay said.