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Heavy Security Planned for Festival Influx

More than 10,000 security officers, including military police, police, traffic police, bodyguards and soldiers, will be deployed this week as millions of Cambodians pour into Phnom Penh for the annual Water Festival, officials said Monday.

At least 424 racing boats will join the festivities from Tuesday to Thursday, a commemoration of the victory of the Angkorian navy over Cham adversaries in the 9th Century on the Tonle Sap lake and to honor the fertility of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.

More than 5 million Cambodians from across the country are expected to attend the three-day festival, up 1 million from 2007, said Phnom Penh Police Chief Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth.

Streets east of Norodom Boulevard between Psar Chas and Independence Monument will be closed from noon to midnight for all three days, Touch Naroth said.

During the three days, freight trucks and tourist buses will not be allowed in the city limits, as traffic becomes increasingly heavy.

Boaters said in the days before the festival they were excited to begin the competition.

“This year, we trained better than in the past,” said Nouth Vanda, 37, a racer from Kampong Thom. “So we cannot lose the race.”