This year’s main Water Festival celebrations in Phnom Penh have been cancelled due to concerns over Covid-19 and a clash with visits by three international premiers in the capital ahead of a major ASEAN summit, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Many weeks ago, I decided that this year we will not celebrate the national Royal Boat Racing Festival, Lantern Floating, Aok Ambok and Worship the Moon in Phnom Penh city, in the meeting at the Office of the Council of Ministers,” Hun Sen said.
While the November 7 to 9 festivities have been cancelled in the capital, the Cambodian premier said small-scale celebrations in the provinces can still go ahead.
He added, “But I allow all citizens, especially in provincial areas, to organize for the Boat Racing Festival. Until now, some provinces are reserving many boats for boat racing.”
During this morning’s speech, Hun Sen denied claims by some social analysts that Cambodia does not have the finances to celebrate this year’s Water Festival.
“I agree that Cambodia is a poor country, but we have not reached the stage of bankruptcy yet. We still have the ability to spend on preparations for the Water Festival if it is necessary to do so,” the PM said.
He said that there are two main reasons for the cancellation in the capital. The first is to avoid overcrowding in the city that can lead to the spread of Covid-19. The second, is due to an upcoming ASEAN meeting and the welcoming of leaders from three countries who will visit for three days during the dates of the Water Festival.
“If there is nothing change, on November 7, there will be a visit from the Vietnamese prime minister to Cambodia, on November 8 there will be an official visit of the Chinese prime minister, and on November 9 there will be an official visit of the president of the Philippines. This does not count the upcoming ceremony for the previous king that will involve the burning of the candle at Independence Monument and the ASEAN Summit,” the PM clarified.
Pa Chanroeun, president of Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told Kiripost that the absence of the Water Festival this year is a suitable decision since the economy has still not recovered. He added that saving the national budget by cutting down on expenses celebrating the national festival is necessary.
“Our country is recovering from Covid-19 and the economic crisis is still bordering our country. Therefore, cutting down on some expenses of the government on activities, such as organizing the Water Festival, is a good thing. However, the continuation of the Water Festival in the provinces is still a nice thing. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity to avoid social gatherings on a huge scale that causes the danger of a Covid-19 outbreak,” he said.