In a first, the much-celebrated Khmer New Year will go ahead online in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the postponement of the holiday in the country and has prevented traditional family and community gatherings for Cambodians around the world.
On Saturday, Facebook event, “Stay Home Khmer New Year,” will go live featuring traditional games, songs and performances by some of Cambodia’s top singers, comedians and game show hosts.
The virtual Khmer New Year is being organised by US-based organisation International Kare Assembly (IKARE), which also runs the National Khmer Legacy Museum in Minnesota, USA.
The initiative follows after the Cambodian government last week announced the postponement of the Khmer New Year holidays, scheduled for April 13 to 16, to curb the spread of the virus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has literally forced all diaspora communities to pause all public gatherings. As a non-profit organisation with a mission to protect, preserve and promote the interests of the Khmer people, the responsibility rests on IKARE to create an example for future generations on turning challenges into opportunities,” said Sek Kosol, event organiser and managing director of IKARE.
“In this case, the recent postponement is an opportunity to leverage technology to connect Cambodian communities all over the world,” he added.
The virtual event will kick off with traditional Buddhist chants, which Cambodians would usually hear when visiting their local temples for Khmer New Year celebrations, to be led by Venerable Moeng Sang, the abbot of Munisotaram pagoda and president of the Minnesota Cambodian Buddhist Society.
“Although we can’t celebrate it, as usual, we still would want to express our faithfulness and show our respect for our culture and customs,” Ven Sang told VOA Khmer in an interview.
The event will also feature a demonstration of Bokotor, an ancient Cambodian martial art, led by Bokotor master Prach Kenya from his home in San Francisco. Mr Kenya has been a Bokator master for more than 30 years and has taught more than 1,000 students.
Other guests scheduled to perform at the event include Cambodian celebrities, such as Khmer traditional musician Jane Saijai and Cambodian singers Vy Chivoan, San Phanith, Chanlai Vorleak and Sal Chansy.
“The main purpose of the event is to inspire the Cambodian people everywhere by building bridges across oceans, so the legacy of the people will not be lost. Fortunately, the current environment offers a unique opportunity to start building bridges. Cambodians lost a New Year on April 17, 1975 [due to the Khmer Rouge]. We don’t want to lose another on April 18,” said Mr Kosol.
The event will be streamed live on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IKAREeverywhere/ starting at 5pm on Saturday.