Capital, Other Towns Besides Siem Reap Set 2000 Festivities

Revelers don’t have to go to the highly touted Angkor Festival in Siem Reap to ring in the new millenium. There are plenty of parties planned across the country, starting right here in the capital.

“We expect this to be at least as big as the Water Festival,” Chan Sok­unthea, an aide to Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara, said of the city’s festivities.

The celebration in Phnom Penh will feature a parade, fireworks and a light and sound show. The official municipal program also promises bell-ringing monks and dancing until dawn at Wat Phnom.

Extra police will be deployed for security, and some roads will be closed, Chan Sokunthea said.

The events kick off today at 5 pm with a modern and traditional song contest, a fashion show, comedy and other festivities at Wat Phnom.

On Friday, the English-language version of the municipal program promises a “massage” by Prime Minister Hun Sen at about 8:30 am, but odds are that he’ll only be speaking. A children’s art fair will follow at Wat Phnom Exhibition Hall.

At 9:30 am, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara will speak at a ceremony for families who lost members during the years of civil war in Cambodia.

At 4 pm, the city will unveil a new symbol of peace: a 3-ton gun sculpted by Yi Bunheang from the remnants of more than 4,000 confiscated weapons during this year’s crackdown. The ceremony will take place at the west end of the Japanese Bridge. Both Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and Chea Sophara are scheduled to attend.

After the ceremony, some 2,000 people are expected to participate in a parade from the bridge to the Preah Tiak Muny Cheadey stupa near the train station.

Nothing more is officially scheduled until about 11 pm, when the festivities marking the ringing in of the new millenium will begin at Wat Phnom. Plans include a televised message from Prince Norodom Ranariddh from Angkor Wat, as well as the fireworks, light and sound show and dancing until dawn.

If that isn’t enticing enough, other provinces have made their own plans for the New Year’s celebrations.

In Takeo province, some 2,000 traditional hot air balloons and 10 kites will be flown in honor of the new millennium, with 10,000 celebrants expected.

Svey Rieng province officials are planning entertainment along the Vaico riverside, with fireworks, contests, traditional dancing, and monks ringing in the New Year by banging giant drums.

Kompong Thom will have two official ceremonies, one in the provincial town, and one at the Prasad Sombo Prey Kup temples, about 30 minutes northeast of town.

“The security in the province is not bad,” said Som Sophat, second deputy governor of the province. “People can go everywhere to enjoy the millennium ceremony.” Authorities expect about 10,000 people, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh is scheduled to preside over a Jan 1 ceremony at the temples.

Sihanoukville, too, has grand plans for Dec 31 and Jan 1, including traditional dancers and beach parties. The beaches have been cleared to welcome visitors, said Sihanoukville Governor Ith Dettola.

In Kampot province, celebrants can choose from three celebrations. In the provincial town, monks will accept alms on Dec 30. Parliamentarian and ad hoc zoo keeper Nhim Vanda will have a party Dec 31. And Mariko Okamura of the Association of School Aid in Cambodia, will host a Dec 31 party at the top of Bokor Mountain which will include the lighting of 2,000 candles at the mountaintop temple.

In Kompong Chhnang, 2,000 monks have been invited to offer blessings. There will be football games, fireworks, and traditional music and dance. In the true spirit of enlightenment, the province has put in new lights along the roads in the provincial town. They will be lit for the first time on Jan 1.

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