Popular Cambodia's Water Festival returns after three-year hiatus due to pandemic

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): The annual Water Festival, Cambodia's grandest festival, returned on Sunday after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boat race is the centerpiece of the three-day festival, which sees tens of thousands of oarsmen and spectators from across the Southeast Asian nation flocking to the riverfront in the capital Phnom Penh.

Bou Chumserey, vice chairman of the boat-racing technical control committee, said some 337 boats with about 20,417 crew members took part in this year's regatta.

"Oarsmen will race their boats along a 1.7-km-stretch of the Tonle Sap river that runs in front of the royal palace," he told Xinhua.

The boat race honors the strength of the powerful Khmer marine forces during the ancient Khmer Empire in the late 11th century, he added.

The festival is also to mark the end of the annual rainy season and the unique reversal flow of the Tonle Sap River that connects the Tonle Sap Lake with the Mekong River, the official said.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, along with Prime Minister Hun Manet and other dignitaries, will watch boat races from a stage erected on the riverbank in front of the royal palace late Sunday afternoon.

Besides viewing the regatta in the daytime, festival-goers can enjoy the procession of illuminated floats and fireworks as well as concerts at nighttime.

Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Khuong Sreng said on Saturday that more than 10,000 security personnel have been deployed to ensure security and safety for the festival-goers during the three-day holiday, which lasts until Tuesday next week. - Xinhua

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