Phnom Penh Braces for Water Festival Crowds

Phnom Penh is gearing up for its largest-ever Water Festival, which is expected to see more boats and visitors from the provinces—over three million are expected—than any previous year, officials said Wednesday.

Min Khin, deputy secretary-general of the Permanent Organizing Com­mission for National and Inter­national Ceremonies, tagged the total number of participating boats at 432—23 more than last year—manned by 26,100 racers.

Nine boats and 293 racers are also expected to represent each of the Asean member states, with the exception of Burma.

In anticipation of the unnavigable road traffic conditions that are a hallmark of the annual festival, all trucks carrying rocks, sand and earth have been ordered to temporarily halt their operations from Friday to Sunday, according to a Nov 16 de­cree from the municipality.

A ferry service will also run from the Chroy Changva peninsula to central Phnom Penh in an effort to ease traffic congestion, said Nhem Saran, director of the municipal public works and transport department.

Sisowath Quay and other thoroughfares east of Norodom Boule­vard will be blocked off from motorbikes and cars, and street vendors will be banned from some riverfront locations, Municipal Deputy Gov­ern­or Mann Chhoeun said.

“We are now so busy with the festival. We will prepare everything better than last year,” he said.

In preparation for the human tsunami expected to descend upon the city, the municipality will set up 100 public toilets and an additional 15 mobile toilets, said Nhem Saran.

Waste disposal firm Cintri is adding 360 temporary workers and 22 extra garbage trucks to deal with the trash generated by the crowds, said Seng Chamroeun, the company’s director. “We are also asking everyone not to throw trash on the street but to use trash baskets,” he said of the numerous receptacles the company is planning to provide.

Officials expressed optimism that all would go well. “We expect the Water Festival to run smoothly,” Nhem Saran added.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Rusling)


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