Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday wished Cambodian-Chinese citizens good luck and prosperity at the start of Chinese New Year.
“On this Chinese New Year, my wife and I wish to congratulate all Cambodian-Chinese blooded nationals and compatriots that celebrate Chinese New Year, and pray for good luck and happiness for all families,” he said in a Facebook post.
The premier also appealed for people to beware of fires from burning candles and incense. “Please compatriots, have fun, stay home, be safe and enjoy your family,” he added.
At about 9am yesterday, nearly 100 poor people, including children and the elderly, waited to receive “ang pao” or lucky money from Mr Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany near his house in celebration of Chinese New Year.
A 45-year-old woman employed by the trash collection company Cintri, who declined to give her name, said she and others came because the Prime Minister and his wife always gave ang pao over the Chinese holiday.
“Last year, I got 50,000 riel of ang pao from Samdech Hun Sen,” the woman said. “So this year I and other people also came here to get it.”
Another old woman waiting across the boulevard from Mr Hun Sen’s house also said he had always given the red envelopes, but had not offered them yet this year.
Eventually police and military police officers asked the crowd to return home because it was just a rumour that gifts would be handed out that day.
According to Chinese tradition, ang pao is money given during holidays and special occasions, particularly during the Lunar New Year to young children, to bring luck and ward off evil spirits.
Some Cambodian-Chinese citizens who live in Cambodia have always provided ang pao to poor people, members of the armed forces, children and elderly people during Chinese New Year because they believe they will receive good luck and get wealthier.
Mr Hun Sen on January 31 said on his Facebook page that the number of people celebrating Chinese New Year in Cambodia was increasing.
He said Cambodia now celebrates three New Year celebrations annually, including New Year’s Eve, and the Chinese and Khmer New Year.
“In the past, we did not see many people celebrating Chinese New Year, but today there are more and more,” he said.
“The nation has peace and citizens have freedom to fully choose religious beliefs, as well as the celebration of festivals according to their traditions.”
Mr Hun Sen also posted a picture of himself and his family at Great Wall of China from 27 years ago.
Relations between China and Cambodia date back to the Angkor era in the 13th century, when Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan, who was also known by his Khmer name of Chiv Ta Koan, visited the kingdom for one year, from 1296 to 1297.
Cambodia and China have always had close ties, but these were challenged when China became communist after the end of World War II. There were also challenges after Cambodia emerged from the French colonial period in the mid-20th century.
Pung Kheav Se, president of the Association of Khmer-Chinese, said there were 200,000 Chinese citizens doing business in the country.
Mr Kheav Se said that the number of Chinese investors in Cambodia had increased because of favourable and open policies for them.