Cambodian government to cancel water festival for this year

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The government will cancel this year’s Water Festival scheduled to take place next month as part of efforts to reduce the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak.

“We usually hold the Water Festival in October. However, the government has decided that, owing to the danger of a Covid outbreak, this year, we will not,” said Interior Minister Sar Kheng, speaking yesterday at a ceremony in Battambang province.

He added that every citizen must learn to live in a new way with the threat of Covid-19.

The government suspended the Water Festival for three consecutive years, in 2011, 2012, and 2013, due to floods and the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.  In 2015, Cambodia failed to hold the Water Festival due to the low water levels, and in 2020 because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said that although the government decided to cancel the festival in Phnom Penh, other provinces can celebrate this traditional festival.

“All pagodas in other provinces may celebrate this important part of Cambodian culture, provided that they practice all MoH measures to prevent the spread of Covid,” said Siphan.

He added that the government decided to allow the citizens of the three-day Pchum Ben to visit tourist destinations around the country. The reason for canceling the Water Festival is because they are trying to re-open some sectors piece by piece.

“The economic effects of this cancellation will be small. The government does not want to see many people come to visit Phnom Penh at the same time. That could potentially lead to an outbreak,” said Siphan.

A drink vendor in front of the Royal Palace, Pheap Sothea said that while she supports this cancellation, it will have negative economic effects on her, especially after a year that has seen a dramatic drop in the number of tourists visiting the Royal Palace.

“We have all seen the effects of Covid-19 on street vendors, and this cancellation will have further effects. I thought that my business would improve during this year’s Water Festival after I saw that people were allowed to visit other tourist destinations,” said Sothea.



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