The first day of the three-day Water Festival in Phnom Penh attracted over one million people in a spectacular showing, with attendance from King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Manet and other national leaders. Large crowds flocked to the event, held after a three-year hiatus.
King Norodom Sihamoni attended the first day of Water Festival in Phnom Penh on November 26. STPM
According to the National Police, the opening day drew 1.2 million people to the capital. The police reported no significant crimes at the event. A total of 1,674 people required first aid assistance, with one case necessitating emergency treatment.
The second day is expected to attract as many visitors as the first, including international tourists.
“Let’s welcome the second day of the Water Festival,” the prime minister announced on his social media channel, which featured numerous photos of the festivities.
He attributed the resumption of the traditional annual event to the country’s state of peace.
“Our country enjoys complete peace, which enables us to celebrate such a grand event,” he posted on social media a day earlier.
The celebration, referred to in Khmer as Bon Om Touk (boat racing), sees participation from 338 long boats from various provinces. At night, the river in front of the Royal Palace is illuminated with 30 lantern barges prepared by ministries, institutions and private companies.
Government spokesperson Pen Bona highlighted the festival’s history on November 27, noting that it commemorates the country’s water and soil and the heroism of the Cambodian navy. He noted that the event has now expanded to celebrate the country’s peace as well.
“This year’s Water Festival can only be celebrated due to the hard-won peace secured by former Prime Minister Hun Sen and maintained by the seventh mandate, led by prime minister Hun Manet,” he stated.
Bona contrasted the joy currently experienced by Cambodians with the misery in some countries where peace is lacking.
He warned that if peace were ever compromised, it could take decades to restore, potentially costing millions of lives, as evidenced by the war from 1970 until the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, followed by subsequent factional fighting.
“It can be concluded that maintaining peace is the foremost achievement of the seventh mandate under [Manet]. It is this peace that allows us to enjoy the cheerful Water Festival,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Manet and his wife Pich Chanmony attended the first day of Water Festival in Phnom Penh. STPM