Thailand Edges Home Team in Festival Final

Thailand won the first Greater Me­kong Subregion Boat Race trophy at the Water Festival in Phnom Penh on Thursday, narrowly beating Cambodia for the title.

But Cambodia’s loss did not come without some consolation: Earlier, the home team beat Vietnam to the raucous cheers of those assembled near the finish line.

“We are not upset because we beat Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos,” Kuom Sokunthy, coach of the Cambodian team, said Thursday night.

“We had a lot of fun with the in­ternational race. We tried our hardest and we are exhausted,” he said, adding that the Cambodian team was quickly assembled and had only 15 days of training.

“The loss tells us that next year we have to train more. The reason we lost is that the Thai team are from the Thai navy and they trained since they were 10 years old,” he said.

On Wednesday, Thai coach Morn Kol said that his team trained together for three months to prepare for the race.

Pa Socheatavong, Phnom Penh deputy governor, said the 2005 Water Festival ran much more smoothly than in previous years, with no major traffic accidents or crimes reported.

Pa Socheatavong estimated that the final day’s crowd exceeded 1 million and said 399 boats en­tered the races. He said the city de­ploy­ed 550 rubbish collectors and 7,000 police. The city collected $11,600 from licensing vendors but spent about $120,000 to host the festival.

He said he had been worried about city gangsters preying on provincial villagers, but only one knife fight was reported on the riverfront. The final night of the festival is the biggest security concern, he added.

Provincial racers tend to venture out on the last night, but the tradition of post-race prostitution was limited this year, at least in the northern section of Phnom Penh, police said.

On the riverfront, a surplus of freely distributed condoms resulted in a number of condoms, in­flated to the size of balloons, floating into the VIP section of the crowd in the late afternoon.

As the sun set on the Tonle Sap, King Norodom Sihamoni pre­­sid­ed over the closing ceremony.

As the hundreds of long boats passed the King’s pavilion, they re­sponded to calls of “Cheyor Preah Reach Chea Nachak Kampu­chea,” which translates as “Long Live the Kingdom of Cam­bo­dia,” by raising oars three times and shouting “Cheyor! Cheyor! Cheyor!”

(Additional re­porting by Lor Chandara)

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