Police Chief Says City Ready for Water Festival

Phnom Penh municipal police chief Chuon Sovann on Monday hosted a meeting of high-ranking authorities to lay out the city’s security plans for the three-day Water Festival, which begins Wednesday.

Speaking to more than 100 members of the municipal police, penal police, traffic police and fire department, Lieutenant General Sovann said Phnom Penh was finally prepared to again host the festival, which was cancelled the past three years following a panic-induced stampede on the Koh Pich bridge that killed more than 350 people in 2010.

“This year, we can restart the Water Festival. The political tension has receded and people are living in prosperity,” Lt. Gen. Sovann said.

“Security in the city is better, therefore we believe that there will be a lot of people who come to participate in the festival,” he said, adding that a 5,000-strong force will be on duty in the city during the festival.

And with measures having been put in place to avoid a repeat of the 2010 stampede, Lt. Gen. Sovann said, handling additional threats will be key to securing the city.

Police and other authorities will focus on dealing with pickpockets, traffic jams and overcrowded entertainment venues, along with the potential threat of political demonstrations, he said.

“There could be an enemy that takes this opportunity to cause political turmoil by protesting or striking, and that could have an impact on public order and national security.”

Also Monday, National Military police commander Sao Sokha met with National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong to finalize security plans for the festival.

Following that meeting, military police spokesman Kheng Tito said that some 3,000 of his officers would be patrolling the city over the coming three days.

“We have prepared our forces, including our emergency forces, to respond when there is an incident,” Brigadier General Tito said.

“There will be no incident like Koh Pich again,” he said. “That… was a lesson for authorities.”

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