Racing colours of Water Festival

These precision-trained oarsmen were part of hundreds competing in an annual boat race along the Tonle Sap river, which runs in front of the Royal Palace, in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, yesterday.

The boat race is the centrepiece of the kingdom's Water Festival, known as "Bon Om Touk" in Khmer, which is usually celebrated in November.

Concerts and fireworks are also part of the three-day festival, which commemorates the reversal of the water flow in Tonle Sap, a phenomenon that occurs when monsoon rains bloat the Mekong River, pushing the water of the smaller river in the other direction.

The two rivers intersect in the capital, where Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior government officials looked on as the yearly extravaganza began.

"The Water Festival is important for all Cambodian people. It is the festival for the King, for our King," spectator Bun Narath, 51, told Agence France-Presse.

"We celebrate the Water Festival to thank ancestors who won the fight with enemies and to thank rivers that provide water for all people."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2017, with the headline 'Racing colours of Water Festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe