No Boats, Little Participation In Festival for Pailin Residents

Pailin will once again have no boat competing in this year’s water festival, and most of the 40,000 people living in the municipality probably won’t even see the festivities on television.

The former Khmer Rouge strong­hold lacks the resources, and cannot afford a boat or a team this year, Pailin Deputy Governor Kuet Sothea said.

At least 400 boats registered for the festival this year, and all other provinces and municipalities will be represented, said Min Khin, deputy chairman for the national and international festivals committee of Phnom Penh.

Between 1.5 million and 2 million people are expected to flock to the city this year, Min Khin said.

But very few of those will come from Pailin, Kuet Sothea said.

“They are so poor, they cannot come. Our people want to see it very much,” he said.

Most Pailin residents won’t even be able to watch the boat races or other festival activities because television station signals don’t reach that far.

“We can’t watch national and international festivals through television programs in Pailin,” Kuet Sothea said. Unless people have a friend with a house on a mountain and a television with good reception, they won’t be watching the festival, he said.

Pailin was once a gem-rich zone that helped fund the Khmer Rouge fighters. The gems have been running out in that auto­no­mous zone, and except for two casinos and a few agricultural developments, prosperity has yet to return.

Pailin is still home to two of the Khmer Rouge’s top leaders, Noun Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Neither will be watching the boat races this year, a close aide to both men said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Khieu Samphan is content listening to Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, while Noun Chea is in failing health with heart problems and high blood pressure, the source said.

As for having no boats, the source said even if they had the money, Pailin residents couldn’t train for the races.

“We have no water,” the source said. “We have only mountains.”

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