University and high school students in Phnom Penh celebrated Valentine’s Day in droves Tuesday, while vendors selling flowers and mementos said they had done good business.
This year, more shops around the city sold roses, real and plastic, than ever before, and students gathering outside schools said the day was a chance to declare their feelings.
“I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in young people celebrating Valentine’s Day,” said Mom Monyraksa, 35, who runs a bookstore in front of Bak Touk High School and has sold roses for the past five years. “I sold more than 500 roses this year, which was a dramatic increase over previous years, when I sold around 300,” she said.
“They used to sell roses only in the big markets but in recent years there are more shops selling roses on street corners,” said Mom Meala, 27, who says she has sold roses in Phsar Thmei for seven years. “I have to compete with those shops, too.”
Expecting bigger business than last year, she ordered more than 10,000 roses from Vietnam and Thailand in the last month, some of which she distributes to other retailers. She had sold over 800 of them since Monday, she said.
Some teachers and parents expressed concern that students were skipping class to celebrate the occasion.
“A greater number of students did not come to school today and others used the school grounds to exchange gifts,” said Khat Dara Rachana, deputy director of Wat Koh High School.
He said such truancy had a “strong negative impact.”
Sisowath High School student Ing Sakkona, 18, said he was well prepared for the day.
“I have to celebrate and buy roses for my girlfriend,” he said. “Otherwise she might get angry and stop our love affair…. I bought her red roses and made a dinner date.”
A 17-year-old student at Wat Koh who identified herself only as Narem, said she felt receiving roses was an honor and very appealing.
“In today’s culture, we need open minds to speak out, act out and do anything we want,” she said.