Apart from the decorative faÃ§ade that is added to Phnom Penh over the festival, Water Festival (Bon Um Tuk, next week) is the worst time of the year to be in Cambodia’s capital. If “attempting to set a new world record for mass public urination” is your idea of a great festive atmosphere then this end of rainy season party is for you. About a million Cambodians from the rural provinces come to Phnom Penh for Water Festival to piss in the streets and act generally bewildered. There are guest appearances by the King; dragon boat racing and the consequential drownings; and fireworks to provide the crowds with both entertainment and further bewilderment. Food-wise, vendors flock to riverfront to hawk their wares, if you’re willing to battle the swarming masses to find them.
My pre-festival highlight this year has been the
first capture of Kampuchea Krom terrorist suspects whose arrests seem about as valid as an increasingly oligarchic government that installed itself in a coup boasting its respect for democracy and the rule of law*.
I’m not going to have any other festival coverage because I’ll be out of town, eating my body weight in naem. No updates for a week or so until I roll back into Phnom Penh.
* – (I am of course, speaking of the government of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea (1979â€“present), who in no way relates to the present political situation in Cambodia. The only thing that he shares with the local political leaders is his taste in eyewear.)
Addendum (3 November 2006): According to today’s Cambodia Daily, it appears that the suspected anti-Water Festival bombers aren’t Khmer Krom, but are just plain Khmer. I’ll be taking bets as to whether they’re either CFF or the covert operations unit of the SRP shadow army.