Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government’s ‘late’ UNESCO bid draws social media outcry



Government’s ‘late’ UNESCO bid draws social media outcry

A Lakhon Khol performance with the hindu diety Hanuman represented by the white monkey. ROYAL UNIVERSITY OF FINE ARTS
A Lakhon Khol performance with the Hindu diety Hanuman represented by the white monkey. Royal University of Fine Arts

Government’s ‘late’ UNESCO bid draws social media outcry

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts yesterday announced that they have submitted the Khmer martial art Bokator, as well as Lakhon Khol – the traditional masked dance theatre – to be considered for recognition on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

The announcement follows widespread outcry on social media as Cambodians reacted to the news that last week the Thai government submitted an art form similar to Lakhon Khol, known as Lakhon Khon, for UNESCO consideration. According to news network Thai PBS, the Thai government’s cabinet approved the submission of Khon on March 28. The Cambodian Culture Ministry filed its application the next day.

On Facebook, disgruntled users accused the ministry of being slow in their submission, while also laying claim to the masked dance as exclusively Cambodian patrimony – a common refrain that has surfaced in regard to other art forms that share similarities across Southeast Asian nations, such as sbek thom, Khmer shadow puppetry.

When the Bangkok Post first reported Thailand’s intent to submit their version of the dance to UNESCO last June, a similar reaction occurred on social media.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Lakhon Khol master Yit Sarin places the mask of the white monkey on a students head as a pre-performance blessing. Royal University of Fine Arts

Read more: The Monkey God’s last dance: Bidding a Lakhon Khol master farewell

Speaking by phone yesterday, Ministry of Culture spokesman Thai Norak Satya said the ministry has been working for more than a year to gather documentation to back up the UNESCO applications for Bokator and Lakhon Khol, noting that submissions are not in competition with those of other countries.

“The two intangible forms [Khon and Lakhon Khol] of art have many things in common due to historical relations, but they are two different dances,” he says. “However, it depends on UNESCO’s decision, and we cannot know the result beforehand.”

Satya went on to decry the fact that the ministry’s efforts for recognition of Cambodia’s culture went unappreciated by the public.

“Many people on Facebook blamed the government but only a few appreciate the government’s hard work on the issue,” he said, noting that the two-stringed guitar art-form, chapey dong veng, was added to the UNESCO list last year.

UNESCO is expected to hand down decisions on this year’s applications at a session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will be held in December in Seoul.

Additional reporting by Alessandro Marazzi-Sassoon

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • Cambodia, India agree to start direct flights, tourism exchanges

    Cambodia and India have agreed to start direct flight connections and promote closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas after the Covid-19 saga comes to a close. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and newly-minted Indian

  • Plastic-to-rice initiative transforms waste into bricks

    Volunteers in Kampong Khlaing commune of Siem Reap province’s Sotr Nikum district have been collecting plastic waste to use as a raw material for the production of bricks and clemence tiles. The volunteers are hoping that, in addition to helping clean up the environment,