Is the Water Festival these days cursed in Cambodia? Since the tragic accident which occured during Phnom Penh festival in 2010, most of the following traditional celebrations have been cancelled. The accident in 2010 was one of the worst in Cambodia recent history.
On November 22, 2010, the celebration of the Khmer Water Festival was followed by four million people who gathered along the Tonle Sap River in the capital- and particularly on the newly built ‘Koh Pich’, the ‘Diamond Island’. The crowd was there to watch boat races and participate to a concert when a bridge collapsed, provoking a stampede. Some 347 people died while another 755 were injured. It was already the third incident in a row following boat drowning both in 2008 and 2009.
Following the tragedy, the festival was cancelled, only being again organised last year. However, the government just announced over last week end to ban the Water Festival this year… this time due to an exceptional drought in the country. The Water Festival was due to be held from November 24 to 26.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a government directive stating that the cancellation was “due to the low level of the river and the drought the Kingdom is facing, which requires us to gather our forces and all possible means to solve the problem of water shortages for rice fields in the dry season.”
The directive states that “the preparation for the Water Festival in the provinces can be held normally, following tradition.”
The Water Festival is one of Phnom Penh most visited event, attracting hundred of thousands of visitors, both domestic and international.