PHNOM PENH —
Street vendors on Monday were left feeling disappointed after sales were down as the water festival returned to Phnom Penh but with far fewer showing up for the event.
The government has suspended the festival, which runs over three days, for four of the past five years since a deadly stampede in 2010 killed more than 350 people in the capital.
The festival returned in 2014 but was canceled again last year ostensibly due to low rainfall, but also amid political tensions that many say were the real reason behind the decision.
The suspensions and fear since the stampede kept people away this year, with vendors reporting up to 40 percent decreases in trade.
Touch Srey Oun, 23, who sells organic health products outside Botum Vatey Pagoda near the Royal Palace, said she had failed to sell much of the produce which she would normally easily offload over the festival period.
“I don’t think people knew about this year’s festival,” she said.
A stall selling organic products for health improvement in front of Botum Vatey pagoda on November 14, 2016. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)
Khouy Rayuth, a clothes seller, said he also saw a large drop in sales.
“The people have started to not be excited by this festival,” he said.
Sman Chanthou, a tire seller, said she had only managed to sell half of her stock, adding that she thought the recent cancellations of the festival had changed people’s behavior.
“Some people now go to the provinces, and others stay in town,” she said.
Sous Oudom, another trader, said numerous road blocks set up across town had deterred people from going to Koh Pich, where many street sellers set up shop and where the stampede occurred in 2010.
“This year, too many roads were blocked,” he said.