There will be slightly fewer boats competing in this year’s Water Festival compared to last year, and reduced government funding for the annual event, which is a cause for concern, a festival organizer said Sunday.
A total of 396 boats are expected to participate in the races, whereas last year there were more than 400 boats, said Chea Sokhom, deputy secretary-general for the Permanent Organizing Commission for National and International Ceremonies.
Some racers decided not to participate because their boats have become too old and may be unsafe to race, Chea Sokhom said.
The Ministry of Finance’s budget for the event also did not cover all costs, as the government had to divert funds this year to aid farmers affected by natural disasters.
The organizing committee plans to spend about $225,000 on the festival compared to last year’s budget of some $300,000, Chea Sokhom said. The committee expects that at least 2 million people will attend the three-day festival starting on Tuesday, he said.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said that even the reduced Water Festival budget was likely padded to allow unscrupulous skimming from the top. “They exaggerate the expenditures,” he said.
Gearing up again to prevent the spread of the disease during the festival, the HIV/AIDS Coordination Committee and the National AIDS Authority plans to distribute 600,000 free condoms this week.
Sim Kimsan, chief of advocacy and communication for the National AIDS Authority, said that, with so many people visiting the capital, there was always the risk of the disease spreading among unwary revelers.
Some boat racers are aware of the risk of AIDS but are careless when they get drunk, he said. “The racers are not used to using condoms, so when they are drunk they forget.”