Dragon boat races highlight Cambodia's water festival return after 3-year hiatus

Dragon boat races highlight Cambodia's water festival return after 3-year hiatus

After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia's largest festival, the annual water festival returned on Sunday. The three-day festival focuses on boat racing, with tens of thousands of rowers and spectators from across Southeast Asia crowding the riverfront in the capital, Phnom Penh. 

Bou Chumserey, vice-chairman of the technical inspection committee for the boat race, said some 337 boats with about 20,417 crew members participated in this year's race. In an interview with Xinhua, he explained that the rowers will compete along the 1.7-kilometer Tonle Sap River, which runs in front of the Royal Palace. He added that the boat race was designed as a tribute to the Khmer's formidable naval power during the ancient Khmer Empire in the late 11th century.

Hundreds of boats, their crews wearing brightly colored T-shirts, battled for victory as they paddled their colorful oars into the Tonle Sap River with the Royal Palace in the background.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni was joined by Prime Minister Hun Manet, who is also his father Hun Sen, and a number of high-ranking government officials for this remarkable annual event.

The festival also aims to mark the end of the annual rainy season as well as the unique phenomenon of the reverse flow of the Tonle Sap River, which connects the Tonle Sap Lake to the Mekong River. In addition to watching the boat races during the day, festival-goers can enjoy a parade of lantern floats with colorful neon lights, fireworks and concerts at night.

Meanwhile, 10,000 personnel have been deployed to ensure the safety of visitors during the three-day festival, which runs until Tuesday (Nov 28), according to Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Khuong Sreng.

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