Illustrative image (Source: VNA)
Soc Trang (VNA) – Home to the largest number of Khmer people in the Mekong Delta, Soc Trang province has recently been celebrating the traditional Chol Chnam Thmay New Year festival.

Chol Chnam Thmay is one of the most important events of the year for the Khmer community. It usually lasts three days and is celebrated in pagodas.

More than 400,000 Khmer people in Soc Trang are marking this year’s festival, which falls on April 13-16, or the seventh to tenth day of the third lunar month.

Prior to the festival, representatives from the provincial Party Committee, the People’s Committee, the Fatherland Front and other organisations presented gifts to Buddhist Khmer dignitaries and households.

More than 400 households in Lieu Tu commune, Tran De district and Vinh Hai commune in Vinh Chau town have two reasons to celebrate as they now have access to fresh water amid the severe drought.

200 poor households in Tra Set village, Vinh Hai commune, Vinh Chau district, are celebrating the New Year in their new houses which were built under a project for ethnic groups in the village.

The 90-hectare Tra Set residential area was built at a total cost of 37 billion VND (roughly 1.7 million USD), of which 35 billion VND (1.6 million USD) was sourced from the State budge. It included transport, electricity, education, health care and water supply facilities.

According to Nguyen Trung Hieu, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, the locality has effectively implemented Party and State policies towards ethnic groups and raised their living standards.

Government Programme 135, which aims to improve living conditions for rural residents with a focus on ethnic communities, has benefited 44 communes and 72 villages in the province over the past five years, he said.

From 2011-2015, the province invested more than 363 billion VND (16.3 million USD) with 342 billion VND (15.4 million USD) coming from State funds, to upgrade infrastructure and boost local production.

As much as 62 billion VND (2.8 million USD) has been allocated to over 11,300 Khmer households to help them escape from poverty in a sustainable manner, the official noted.

Other southern provinces are also organising activities to mark the Khmer New Year festival.

Secretary of the Hau Giang province Party Committee Tran Cong Chanh and heads of other provincial departments and agencies visited Buddhist Khmer monks, nuns and followers at the Ochumpruksa Pagoda in Vi Thuy commune, Vi Thuy district.

Hau Giang is home to more than 22,000 Khmer people, who have contributed greatly to local socio-economic development, Chanh said.

In Vinh Long province, provincial leaders paid New Year visits to 13 Theravada Buddhist sect pagodas, the provincial Patriotic United Buddhist Association, the boarding school for ethnic students and Khmer people from April 11-14.

Vinh Long is home to more than 22,500 Khmer people residing in Tra On, Tam Binh and Vung Liem districts and Binh Minh town.

Over the past years, thanks to a range of programmes and projects, local Khmer people have seen their living standards improve significantly with the poverty rate dropping to 17.62 percent of the Khmer population by the end of 2015.-VNA