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King Sihamoni presides over opening of Water Festival

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King Norodom Sihamoni presides over the lighting of the lantern barges at the opening of this year's Water Festival on Sunday. Hong Menea

King Sihamoni presides over opening of Water Festival

King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the lighting of the lantern barges, representing the many ministries, in front of the Royal Palace on Sunday as the first day of the annual Water Festival celebrations went smoothly.

Bun Veasna, an official at the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, told The Post on Sunday that the first day of the festival had gone smoothly.

Government leaders including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Say Chhum, President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng attended the event with the King.

“The first boat racing event went smoothly like every year. We finished the first round in the morning, and finished the second in the afternoon,” Veasna said.

National Police said they had deployed nearly 20,000 police officers in Phnom Penh to provide security at the festival, which ends on Tuesday.

On his Facebook page, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodians were enjoying the festival with big smiles on their faces. He said security forces were safeguarding the participants as well as the boat crews.

“Besides enjoying the boat racing on the river, people can shop at many stalls. May I wish all our compatriots happiness and good luck,” Hun Sen wrote.

Festival goer Sok Chea said he was enjoying himself as it was one of the biggest events of the year. He said he never misses it.

“There are fewer people here today compared to the first day of the Water Festival last year. But I think there will be more people tomorrow,” Chea said.

Daun Ley from Phnom Penh said she appreciated the security arrangements that had enabled her to enjoy the festival without fear.

“Along the streets, it is very safe because there is security taking care of us. I have no concerns and I am enjoying myself,” Ley said.

Boat racing on the Tonle Sap river on Sunday.

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