Prime Minister Hun Sen has clarified that Covid-19 and the upcoming ASEAN Summit were the main reasons behind the cancellation of Water Festival celebrations in Phnom Penh this year, and not due to a lack of budget as claimed by some analysts.
The annual festival, originally scheduled to take place from November 7-9, was cancelled during a Council of Ministers meeting on September 9.
In a special audio address to the nation on the morning of September 15, the premier said that as precautionary measures, there should not be mass gathering in the capital for the festivities, which normally see boat racers and holiday revelers from across the country.
“Another outbreak of Covid-19 would place the country in a dangerous situation. We cancelled Water Festival celebrations in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19, and this year we have every reason to take precautions against the disease,” he said.
The premier also noted that Cambodia is slated to host the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related meetings from November 10-13, when heads of states and governments as well as ASEAN partners and senior officials from around the world convene in Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen’s clarification came in response to unnamed critics who said the cancellation was due to a lack of state budget.
“We have more than enough to spend on the festivities, which cost only $4 million to $5 million to organise,” he stressed.