Old Boats Keep Some From Water Festival Races

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.”


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