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Police Prepare for New Year Security

National police are preparing to widen their presence at traditional Buddhist New Year sites, strengthening security as a three-day holiday begins Tuesday.

Police in Phnom Penh and across the country will be deployed at pagodas, gardens and any other place where revelers tend to gather, to prevent theft and gambling, police officials said Monday.

“We take action to protect people’s security every year,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak. “Many police are deployed in areas where festivities are held.”

During the three days of the New Year festival, “police have no holiday,” he said.

Police and traffic police will be spread out from Tuesday to Thursday, which marks the beginning of the Buddhist year 2533, the Year of the Ox.

The New Year is a time for people to return to their homes, be with families, pray for the dead at pagodas, and, for the young, play traditional games and dance in the streets. But it can also be a time of negligence and danger.

Phnom Penh firefighters, for example, will also be on alert, working 24-hour shifts, in case of fires in the homes of the myriad people who will leave town this week, possibly leaving on their gas stoves, lights or appliances, Deputy Phnom Penh Governor Man Chhoeun said Monday.

Last year, two large fires within Phnom Penh started just ahead of the new year, one in Tuol Kork district, of 40 homes, and one in Stung Meanchey, which destroyed hundreds of homes.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth said Monday he had already met with city officials about “tightening security” in the capital.

“Now police have received orders already from the Ministry of Interior to go to the places where villagers gather,” he said.