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Bokator Unesco listing delayed

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times Share:
Bokator has also been submitted as an official sporting discipline for the 2023 Phnom Penh SEA Games.​ KT / Yeun Punlue

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage List has requested a delay before it announces the inclusion of Cambodia’s Bokator and Lakhon Khol dancing to its Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Vath Chamroeun, Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), said yesterday administrative issues at Unesco necessitated the delay until 2020.

“Unesco told us this year many countries have also submitted their cultural heritage for inclusion. They want to give priority to a country that has the least number of registrations, so that’s why they’ve asked us to delay our inclusion.” Mr. Chamroeun said.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in a statement published last year said, a working group of officials had been preparing the application since December 2016.

“Documents relating to Lakhon Khol were sent to Unesco in the morning on March 29 and the organization acknowledged the application that afternoon,” the statement said, adding the Bokator application was sent on the same day.

The applications have been put through rigorous evaluation by international experts before being presented for approval at an intergovernmental committee meeting which was scheduled for November 2018 and set for inclusion in 2019.

The resurgence of Bokator in recent years bodes well for the kingdom and is largely thanks to the work of the NOCC and San Kim Sean, renowned as the father of modern Bokator and credited with reviving the art after suppression by the Khmer Rouge regime. Bokator suffered greatly during the Khmer Rouge years, when many people who were proficient in traditional martial arts were systematically exterminated, fled as refugees or were forced into hiding.

Bokator has also been submitted as an official sporting discipline for the 2023 Phnom Penh Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), with recent reports suggesting the inclusion was supported by Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee has already listed several local traditions as intangible heritage, including the Royal Ballet of Cambodia in 2003, the Sbek Thom shadow puppetry in 2005 and the tug-of-war game Teanh Prot in 2015.

In 2016, Unesco certified the chapey dong veng guitar-like instrument as part of Cambodia’s intangible cultural heritage, agreeing to provide more than $230,000 to support its protection and potential resurgence as an art form.

The chapey is an instrument with two to four strings used for traditional music, and when combined with poems in Khmer, becomes the chapey dong veng.

The Angkor archaeological site was acknowledged as a World Heritage site in 1992, while Preah Vihear temple made the list in 2008.

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