New Year’s Celebrated Despite Riots

Wednesday’s anti-Thai riots threatened to put a damper on Phnom Penh’s Chinese New Year holiday, which began Satur­day, but citizens since have pulled out their firecrackers to help wish for luck in the coming year.

“I need to throw away all the suffering and bad luck I had in the past before the new year,” said Chea Hoy, 37, a businesswoman.

To mark the dawn of the Year of the Goat, she purchased fruit and traditional Chinese flowers to pray to her ancestors for good luck, happiness and success in her business.

Chea Hoy, like many other Chi­nese-Cambodians, followed a “house-sweeping diet” throughout the three-day festival, since it is believed that good luck is swept from the house along with dirt and debris, said Sea Hong, a secretary at the Chinese-language Duon Hoa School near Phsar Olympic.

“They need to keep everything in their house in good condition and prevent glasses from crashing or else sweeping would fill their lives with unhappiness,” he said.

Equating happiness with in­creased sales, vendors upped their stocks of food and flowers to prepare for families who stayed home for the three-day holiday that ended Monday, said Fong Ly, a member of the local Chi­nese Association.

“People need to prepare these things to offer to the Chinese god and their ancestors,” he said.

The municipality prepared for the holiday by issuing a ban on all fireworks, commonly used by children and adults. Police seized 200 kg of fireworks since Jan 20, but admitted that they couldn’t stop all noisemakers from popping.

Not even a week after armored cars and military police rolled down Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh’s streets were full of music and controlled mayhem Monday. Youth garbed in colorful costumes danced to the hollow sounds of steel drums outside the Caltex gas station on Norodom, and despite the municipality’s ban, smiling young children ran screeching away from firecrackers set off on sidewalks crowded with onlookers.



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