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5 Million Expected for This Year's Water Festival

Cambodian racers row their wooden boats past hundreds of spectators at the Tonle Sap River in front of the Royal Palace. (File photo)

Phnom Penh has deployed more than 10,000 security forces across the city in anticipation of 5 million guests for the annual Water Festival, officials said Friday.

The festival of boat races and celebrations will last through Monday, when the moon is full, the largest collective revelry in the Cambodian calendar.

Cambodians from all walks of life will flock to the festival, which this year boasts 420 boats and nearly 28,000 racers, according to the national festival committee.

“Round-the-clock” security will include plainclothes policemen on the lookout for “all illegal activities, such as [bag] snatching, pickpocketing, robbery, theft and gangsterism,” said Touch Naroth, chief of Phnom Penh police.

“During the festival, we'll tighten security measures for high-ranking leaders and Cambodians around the country, because we're afraid offenders will take this opportunity to act illegally,” he said.

Police and military police will be deployed across seven security stations: Koh Pich, Chroy Changvar bridge, Wat Ounalom, Wat Botum, the Royal Gardens by the National Museum and Independence Monument.

During the three days, freight trucks and buses will be banned in city limits, to mitigate the already swollen traffic, said Has Pirum, head of municipal order and traffic offices.

Riverfront roads and those between the river and Norodom Boulevard will be closed to all but foot traffic between 11 am and midnight, he said.

Meanwhile, 300 city workers will be deployed to keep the gardens clear of debris, Sam Samuth, head of the municipal garden unit, said. More than 200 mobile toilets have been put in place on opposite ends of the riverfront promenade, he said.