People Flock to Their Homelands to Celebrate Khmer New Year

Tens of thousands of people be­gan making the annual exodus to their provincial homelands on Friday in preparation for this year’s Khmer New Year celebrations, which will fall on April 14 to 16.

Police on Friday said more than 1 million people are expected to leave Phnom Penh by Saturday evening and that drivers should prepare for long delays along the country’s national highways.

Chev Hak, deputy municipal traffic police chief, said that most of the country’s hundreds of thousands of garment workers would leave the capital on Friday evening and Saturday morning and that cars hoping to cross the Chroy Changvar bridge to reach Nation­al Road 5 were backed up in traffic jams for as long as two hours.

“The traffic will be heaviest on Saturday. On National Road 5 near the Chroy Changvar bridge, over 20 traffic police have been stationed,” he said, adding that Russei Keo district police had also sent officers to try and control the traffic in the area.

Mr. Hak said Municipal Police Chief Chuon Sovan had ordered all nine districts in Phnom Penh to patrol the city for 24 hours a day until the end of the Khmer New Year period.

Bad traffic jams are also expected at the Neak Loeung ferry cross­ing over the weekend, al­though the flow of traffic has improved there over the past two years since the Chi­nese-funded Prek Tamak bridge spanning the Mekong River opened.

“Normally I visit my homeland twice a year, and one of those times is at Khmer New Year, as this is a time that people visit their family and I can enjoy traditional games with my friends,” said Hun Sieng Hoeur, a 35-year-old garment worker who was waiting for a bus on Friday to go to Kom­pong Thom province.

At several bus stations in Phnom Penh on Friday, hundreds of revelers could be seen buying bus tickets and waiting in the shade with bags of clothes and fresh fruit looking to get out of Phnom Penh a few hours ahead of time. At markets across the city, crowds were buying last minute items for the holiday period.

Chhem Chamnan, marketing officer for the Phnom Penh Sorya bus company, said on Friday that the number of people looking to leave Phnom Penh had increased roughly 30 percent compared to normal days.

“On April 13, we add two more buses to our service and they go to Battambang and Kompong Cham province,” he said.

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