preak tonloap commune, Kandal province – Several hundred car, truck and motorbike drivers were stuck in a huge traffic jam at Neak Leung Ferry on Thursday morning after one of the ferries broke down and was temporarily out of service.
The line of vehicles stretched for hundreds of meters, and people were left waiting anxiously for several hours in the increasing heat of the morning sun before they could cross the Mekong River to continue their travels ahead of Saturday’s Chinese festival of Ching Ming. During the festival, people visit the gravesites of family members to remember and honor them.
Seng Chhuon, director of the Neak Leung Ferry service, said that around 7 am one of three ferries developed engine trouble and did not resume service until noon.
“On a normal day there would be half an hour waiting time, but today one ferry did not work and many people are traveling to their homeland to celebrate Ching Ming—it created a traffic jam for two hours.”
Seng Chhuon warned that in the days before and after Khmer New Year celebrations from April 14 to 16 waiting times at the crossing could increase to four to five hours.
A taxi driver named Saroeun said he waited six hours at Neak Leung during the Buddhist festival of Pchum Ben last October.
“My passengers were very disappointed and constantly asking me when we would cross,” he said.
Oun Sophanarith, deputy traffic police chief of Peamro district, located on the east bank of the crossing in Prey Veng province, said that for the upcoming Khmer New Year his officers would work with military police in coordinating traffic.
Seng Chhuon said that in 2010 a ferry from Preh Tamek Ferry cros-sing in Mok Kampoul district, Kan-dal province, will be added to the Neak Leung service.