The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has announced that the first “Khmer Sampot Bot Gala” will be held next month.

‘Sampot bot’, roughly translated as folded skirt, is a long, rectangular cloth worn around the lower body. The traditional dress is common among state employees, and, if made from silk, is usually worn in a special occasion such as wedding ceremony.

While addressing a February 26 press conference, ministry secretary of state Londy Sannara explained that the March 2 event aims to preserve the traditions and intangible heritage of the Khmer ancestors.

She hopes the gala will inspire all Cambodians, especially women, to cherish their culture and become more aware of Khmer values, as well as the beauty of sampot bot. 

“This purpose of the ministry organising this event is to help young people understand that sampot bot is part of the intangible heritage that our ancestors left for us.

“Because the young are bamboo shoots who will grow into tomorrow’s leaders, we have a duty to preserve and promote Khmer culture, because it belongs to us all,” she said.

The ministry encouraged domestic and international visitors, as well as journalists, to visit the event and advertise it widely to preserve Khmer culture. 

Roth Sandab, a researcher of Khmer culture, civilisation and politics, said on February 27 that the event demonstrates the ministry’s dedication to preserving traditional Khmer dress, noting that traditional clothing appeared to be on the decline.

He added that an influx of foreign culture and clothing mean the younger generations of Cambodians are less interested in wearing items like sampot bot on a daily basis, with the traditional dress typically only worn on special occasions.

“I congratulate the ministry for organising the gala, and I expect it will attract a lot of attention from the public. Sampot bot is very beautiful and makes the wearer look classy,” he said.

“I have nothing against people wearing foreign clothing, but if young people never see our traditional garb, then the unique clothing our ancestors left to us may be lost,” he added.

This Khmer Sampot Bot Gala is set to take place on the evening of March 2, at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Conference Hall. An exhibition of Khmer handicrafts will be staged at the same venue from March 1-3.