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Saturday, November 04, 2006

24,000 Racers Set to Participate in Water Festival

Cambodian racers row their wooden boat for contest upon a water festival at the Tonle Sap river in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006. A three days of annual water festival is starting from this Saturday up to Monday is to be dedicated to the Kingdom ancestral naval warrior moreover to the mighty of Mekong water that provides a vital natural resources and fishes to Cambodian. The events are expected to stream more than one million people in to capital to feature the 409 of wooden dragon boat racing. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Saturday and Sunday, November 4-5, 2006

Some 24,000 boat racers—manning a total of 409 racing boats— arrived in Phnom Penh from the provinces on Thursday to attend this weekend's Water Festival, an event organizer said Friday.

The racers, many of whom are staying in makeshift tents on the Chroy Changvar peninsula, are urged not to drink alcohol or visit brothels during their stay, said Nhem Vary, deputy secretary-general of the National and International Festival Organizing Committee.

"From one year to another our Water Festival has grown bigger in terms of people's participation," he said.

King Norodom Sihamoni will officially open the festival outside the Royal Palace on Saturday afternoon. Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the ceremony, Nhem Vary added.

Many of the boats participating are named in honor of top-ranking government officials. There will be no boat named after ousted Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in contrast to previous years, officials said.

SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang accused the CPP of exploiting the races to reap political benefits. CPP lawmaker Nhim Vanda, who is sponsoring a boat whose name celebrates the victories of Hun Sen, denied Eng Chhay Eang's claims. The boat's name will bring good luck he said.

"Each boat wants to get victory. Last year we won," he said.

In front of the Royal Palace on Friday afternoon, Chan Dong, a rower from Prey Veng province on a boat sponsored by CPP Interior Ministry Secretary of State Prum Sokha, was preparing to warm up.

"I am very happy to be here to show our strength," he said.

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