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Kun Khmer seeking Olympic recognition

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Prominent boxer Thoeun Theara exchanges blows with opponent Beckham Bigwin during a bout in Battambang province last month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Kun Khmer seeking Olympic recognition

The Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) are working together to secure the support of 75 nations. This will guarantee the sport of Kun Khmer – an important part of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage – achieves the recognition of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Just 25 more nations are needed to secure the formal recognition of the IOC. NOCC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun claimed that Cambodia has a clear plan to achieve the goal.

“Our goal is to attract the support of more than 75 countries. As soon as the traditional sport of any country has more than 75 member nations, it is officially recognised. We have a very clear goal, and a strategy to achieve it. I believe we will be successful,” he said.

Although Muay Thai has already been recognised by the IOC, he believed the recent debate on the origins of the two sports had encouraged more nations to look into the Kingdom’s claims that Kun Khmer originated in Cambodia. He said that in the month since the debate began attracting publicity, more than 20 new nations had formed Kun Khmer federations.

“During this verbal clash, many international media outlets reported the results of research by well-known historians in Hong Kong, as well as the UNESCO World Martial Arts Commission. Kun Lbokator was added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list last year, and to be added to this list means extensive independent research was carried out,” added Chamroeun.

Meam Ra, president of the KKIF, said that despite pressure from the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA), the federation would have no problems attracting the required number of members.

“We are slowly taking the steps we need to earn the IOC recognition that Kun Khmer deserves. Despite pressure from the IFMA, most of our new members conducted their own research and reached the conclusion that Kun Khmer pre-dates Muay Thai. That is why they have come to us,” he added.

“We do not want to create any confrontation. We want to be good neighbours, but we are not responsible for what the IFMA chooses to do. Perhaps they should practice their sport and we will practice ours. It doesn’t have to be a competition. Kun Khmer is not trying to dominate the Thai version, so Muay Thai should not try to dominate Kun Khmer,” he concluded.

Chamroeun, who is also the secretary-general of the Cambodia SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC), agreed with his sentiments.

“We want nothing but harmony and have no intention of creating any kind of ethnic conflict. These are modern times, and we all want peace,” he said.

He called on all Cambodians to support the work of the executives of the Kun Khmer federation and NOCC to achieve the recognition the sport deserved, however.

“The expansion of our traditional martial art to the world will only be possible if we work together. One of our tasks is to define the rules and regulations – including uniform codes – for our sport. Once we have done this, we need to make sure that regular international tournaments are held,” he said.

He compared regular competitions to oxygen, saying that without them, the profile of the sport will be diminished and it will die out.

“If there was no Olympic Games every four years, the Olympic movement would collapse,” he said.

Chamroeun said that Cambodia had decided to organise the World Kun Khmer Championship every year.

“We will host the initial competitions, but expect our member countries to participate soon. Even though the federation was only formed last year, the spirit of Kun Khmer is in the souls of the Cambodian people, so I have every confidence we will succeed. As long as we work hard, and organise the sport in a fair, transparent manner, we cannot fail,” added Chamroeun, who is also KKIF secretary-general.


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