The committee organizing this year’s Water Festival is making arrangements for more than 400 boats to compete, while acknowledging government funds are tight because of flood relief efforts.
“We will spend more than 1 billion riel for the King’s Birthday, Independence Day and the Water Festival,” Min Khin, director of the festival committee, said. “That compares with 800 million riel (approximately $205,000) in 1999.”
He said the committee will spend money for six decorative lighted boats representing various branches of the government, and $40,000 for fireworks for the festival, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday. The rest of the money will be spent on contestant expenses, boat prizes, security, insurance and other miscellaneous items.
Min Khin said the festival committee is ready to send a letter to the Council of Ministers asking for 1 billion riel (approximately $257,000). But he admits he is not sure they will approve the entire amount. In recent days Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials said flood expenses are putting a severe dent in the state’s treasury.
So the festival committee is actively seeking private donations. Sokimex President Sok Kong said his company is donating $10,000 for the boat races and $10,000 for flood relief.
“I’ve spent a lot of money [on charity] this year,” Sok Kong said. “Many wats have requested money from me. Even the Kompong Cham governor asked for money.”
A special prize will be awarded this year to the boat which best combines speed with distinctive Khmer artwork. “We’re doing this because we want the boats to retain true Khmer decoration,” Min Khin said.
Additional rescue boats will be on site during the races because the high water level this year is more dangerous.