CAMBODIANS FLOCK TO HOMETOWNS ON FREE BUS RIDES FOR TRADITIONAL NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia , Hundreds of thousands of Cambodian migrant workers left the capital Phnom Penh on Friday for their home provinces to celebrate the traditional lunar New Year, which falls on April 14, 15 and 16 in 2018.

This year, the government has arranged, for the first time, 60 buses to transport travelers to their hometowns free-of-charge from April 12 to 18.

Donated by the Chinese government in July 2017, the Yutong buses equipped with modern-tech and air-cons, have been used to serve passengers in Phnom Penh in the city-bus-fleets.

Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen has said that the move was to prevent private bus companies and taxi drivers from raising fees during the holiday period.

Hao Sotheary, 26, a nurse at a private clinic in Phnom Penh, said the free bus service would save her family 35 U.S. dollars for a round trip between Phnom Penh and her hometown in Pursat province, about 200 km west of the capital city.

"I go to my hometown twice a year - during the New Year and Pchum Ben festival (honoring-the-dead festival)," she told Xinhua while taking the bus to her home.

"Previously, I and my husband took a taxi to our hometown and it cost us 70,000 riel (17.5 U.S. dollars) for a single trip," she said. "Now, I'm very happy to ride the bus free of charge because it saves me money."

Garment factory worker Thoeun Thoeuth, 53, said the Khmer New Year was the most important occasion for a family reunion; however, some years, she had not visited her hometown due to lack of money.

"When having money, I and my husband visit our hometown, and sometimes, when we did not have money, we did not go to hometown," she told Xinhua while taking the free bus to her hometown in Pailin province, some 380 km west of Phnom Penh.

She said the free bus service saved her family 40 U.S. dollars for a round trip.

Phnom Penh is inhabited by approximately 1.5 million people, most of whom are migrants from various provinces. As they leave the city on the occasion, the whole city is quiet and most of the shops are closed.

During the three-day New Year celebrations, revelers prepare food, fruit and soft drinks on altars, and light candles and incense sticks in order to greet the New Year's angel.

Besides, they make offerings of food and money to Buddhist monks at pagodas in order to dedicate to their ancestors.

Source: NAM News Network