With the first SEA Games ever hosted by Cambodia kicking off in a week, Prime Minister Hun Sen calls on all Cambodians to maintain the Kingdom’s dignity, fame and reputation by avoiding violence and all other undesirable activities.
Hun Sen made the appeal as he recalled past incidents surrounding crowed events, at least one of which turned tragic.
“So, unexpected events could happen as people flock to see the games at the National Olympic Stadium. We already experienced that in 2016 when football fans climbed over the fence into the stadium to see a game, although there were no major incidents,” he said at the graduation ceremony for students of the Royal Administration School on April 27.
He asked the public and authorities to recall the stampede on Koh Pich in 2010 during the Water Festival when at least 347 people died and 755 were injured. He said tragic events such as stampedes and other disturbances such as fighting between football fans must be prevented.
Hun Sen said that Cambodia would spend an estimated $118 million to host the games, including $7 million on food and accommodation for foreign athletes and delegations.
“If there is any violence at any game, all the money we have spent and our efforts for five years since the start of the construction of the infrastructure would melt away and be lost. We have waited for this opportunity [to host the SEA Games] for 64 years,” he said.
In an audio address to the nation on the morning of April 27, Hun Sen said that he had reminded authorities to prepare public viewing locations for the opening and closing ceremonies and the sporting events, as the venues for the games cannot accommodate everyone who may want to attend.
In addition to maintaining good public order, Hun Sen also called on all sports fans to avoid insulting the opposing teams, no matter whether it is directly on the pitch or via social media.
“I call on our people to maintain solidarity with our athletes as well as those from participating countries. No matter whether we lose or win, we as the hosts must be highly responsible and always be polite to our guests,” he said, adding that the athletes themselves must also adhere to the principles of good sportsmanship towards their opponents.
The premier added that all of Cambodia’s good behaviour and habits during the games would earn praise from the fans and athletes of the participating countries. He had noted previously that this event is meant to serve as a showcase for Cambodia that could help boost tourism, especially visitors from ASEAN nations, in the years to come.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration also called on all pagodas in the capital’s 14 districts to beat drums and ring bells to welcome the SEA Games and Para Games torch relay runners, who are due to arrive in the capital on the afternoon of April 28.
The relay procession is expected to arrive at Prek Anchanh Market along National Road 6 and head to Wat Phnom and then on to Wat Langka.
On April 29, the relay would continue to the provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake and arrive back in Phnom Penh on May 5, with the final destination of Morodok Techo National Stadium, the main SEA Games venue.
The administration called on the public to line the route and join the relay procession in huge numbers.
“Your participation will provide spiritual power to all athletes and sports delegations who are coming to compete in the games in Cambodia. It also shows our friendship, unity, brotherhood, and mutual support for people in ASEAN countries,” the City Hall said in a notice.
It also instructed the municipal police, gendarmerie and authorities at all levels to cooperate responsibly to ensure the torch relay goes smoothly.
On April 26, the security and public order committee for the SEA games held a meeting to finalise preparations for the games. The committee consists of representatives from the National Police, the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit and the gendarmerie.
National Police chief Neth Savoeun, who is chair of the committee, instructed all forces to work together to protect the games and provide security, public order and safety for the sake of Cambodia’s national pride and prestige.