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Phnom Penh Prepares for Water Festival

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered Phnom Penh authorities to prepare for the annual Water Festival, which draws millions of visitors to Phnom Penh every year.

The festival, which marks a change in direction of the Tonle Sap river and commemorates a naval victory of the Khmer empire over Cham adversaries, begins Nov. 1 and lasts three days.

Authorities expect five million people to attend this year’s festivities, which include a lighted nighttime flotilla and daytime boat races, with around 300 teams competing.

“I would like to call on Phnom Penh municipal authorities and the provinces around Phnom Penh to provide good safety for our people,” Hun Sen said. “All kinds of armed forces must defend the safety of Phnom Penh. During the Water Festival, people from the rural areas are coming into Phnom Penh more and more.”

Phnom Penh will deploy about 6,500 security personnel to maintain public order.

“We have enough police and military police forces to maintain public security and order during the Water Festival,” Touch Naroth, chief of Phnom Penh police, said. “We have prepared our patrols and intervention forces to help pedestrians along the streets. First, we will prevent any offenses, and second, we will avoid traffic jams and traffic accidents.”

Pickpockets and lost children top the problems that must be dealt with, he said.

Hun Sen also urged people to be mindful of sanitation, as well as the spread of HIV and the H1N1 virus, which has killed three Cambodians so far this year. Health authorities have said the festival could be a major incubator for the flu virus.