Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On the road for Pchum Ben

Photo by: Heng Chivoan/Sovan Philong
Competitors get into the clinch during a wrestling competition (left) at Kandal province’s Wat Vihear Sour on Saturday as Cambodia celebrated Pchum Ben. Elsewhere in the province, others participated in boat races (right) to mark the holiday, known as the festival of the dead.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Khuon Leakhana and Tep Nimol

Cambodians take off for their hometowns in an annual exodus to the games, races and other celebrations of the holiday, with only 18 killed on the road.

Whether it was racing boats and buffalo or throwing a gala at the pagoda, Cambodians celebrated the culmination of Pchum Ben in style over the weekend.

Residents flocked back to villages and towns around the Kingdom to commemorate the annual festival honouring the souls of their dead ancestors.

In Kampong Chhnang province, some villages took part in boat races along the Tonle Sap. In Kandal province’s Vihear Suor village, highlights included racing buffalo and wrestling. A more spiritual experience was found in pagodas, where gifts were offered to monks.

With the colossal exodus came trouble on congested streets. Eighteen people died on the roads during the weekend, and another 300 were injured in what officials say is a slight drop in road accidents from last year.

Officials recorded 125 road accidents between Friday and Sunday, according to the National Police’s department of public order. Of the injured, 148 were considered “seriously injured”
whereas 131 people escaped with minor injuries. Officials attributed the modest dip to a strict crackdown by traffic police in the run-up to the weekend’s festivities.

Even so, Him Yan, deputy director of the department of public order at the National Police, said there was still some “awful” driving on the country’s roads. “Even though the number of road accidents decreased, we still regret that some problems still happened,” Him Yan said Monday.

“We have noticed speeding still happened, and some people still ride motorbikes and drive cars very awfully, carelessly and in a disorderly manner, which caused road accidents and traffic jams.”

Him Yan said police found roughly half of the vehicles on the roads were speeding. “In response to this issue, we still continue to enforce the law by putting up restrictions little by little until we can stop people from speeding and drunken people from driving,” he said.

Him Yan said speeding was the biggest cause of road accidents. Officers would enforce speed limits of 30km/h to 40km/h in cities and towns and 70km/h to 90km/h outside cities.

Just as road accidents dropped slightly, problems caused by what officials are calling “spoiled youngsters” around the country also appeared to dip during the Pchum Ben Festival weekend.

Banteay Meanchey province deputy police Chief Hun Hean attributed a drop in problems with “spoiled youngsters” to an ongoing crackdown on juvenile delinquency.

Hun Hean collected six youths involved in a fight at a pagoda on Saturday. “I saw that disturbing activities committed by spoiled youngsters decreased a lot compared to last year’s Pchum Ben Festival,” he said.

Yim Mengly, a provincial investigator for the rights group Adhoc in Battambang province, said he noticed much less rowdy behaviour this weekend from young ruffians. “I did not see any big violent fights or clashes,” he said “Some minor conflicts did happen, but they are not big concerns.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is heart warming to see vibrant life is sprouting back better than ever in the Vihear Sour area.

For those who do not know. Vihear Sour was one of the major battle fields during the Lon Nol era (1970-75). It was back and forth battles between government troops and the Khmer rouge because its proximity to Phnom Penh. It was so critical and the situation got so bad that B-52's, F-105's, F-4's, and many other aircrafts had to drop their loads of bombs on this small area. Tens of thousand died there. Wat Vihear Sour was unrecognizable. It was destroyed and leveled to the ground. So were villages around it. Craters with the size of a big swimming pool were everywhere even inside the Wat compound. The roads were impassible because those big bomb damages. Blown up trucks of all sizes, M-113 APV's, big guns, jeeps, military equipments, ..., etc were everywhere along the roads. Even a year or two after the battles, the place still looked surreal beyond hell because of the utter destruction from those big bombs from B-52's. Bleached white bones and skeletons of Lon Nol, Khmer Rouge soldiers, and villagers could still be found and seen everywhere.

But now there are Khmer tradition buffalo race and Angkor era wrestling match are flourishing in this destroyed land. People look beautiful and seem healthy. 36 years ago, who would had thought that people would live here again. This is an epitome and testament of a phoenix raises from ashes. Would love to visit this area again someday to see the change personally. Bravo Vihear Sour!