Less than a month after opening, a Siem Reap restaurant and club showcasing the Cambodian martial art of l’bokator has dismissed its most visible partner.
Grandmaster San Kimsean, the founder of the Bokator Academy and the Bokator Federation, is no longer involved in the club, citing a dispute with the owner over the pay provided to fighters.
At a grand opening event on May 18, featuring l’bokator performances and a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Kimsean told The Post the venue would be a place to give fighters opportunities to earn money while also spreading knowledge of the sport. Since then, however, he said that disagreements arose over their pay, while a manager at the restaurant accuses Kimsean of recruiting unqualified fighters for matches.
According to the manager, Pich Veasna, there will still be l’bokator matches at the venue on Saturdays.
“The fighters he brought were inexperienced and could not give us good matches. We could not sell the ticket to the customer to see such matches,” Veasna said.
Kimsean said that he brought fighters to his academy to train intensively for one month.
“They are young and inexperienced, but we are training them to be skilled,” he said, adding that most professional fighters in the country have left to work in other countries. “On the inauguration day, there were only two matches, but I brought quite good fighters. In the next competition, the fighters were young and inexperienced and the restaurant was not happy with the matches. How could we turn them into the pros in just one month?”
Because the owner was unhappy with the quality of the fighting, Kimsean said, he planned to only pay fighters half of their normal fee if the matches were unsatisfactory.
“They [the restaurant] told me if the fighters could not deliver a good match, their pay will be half deducted . . . The restaurant was the one to decide which match is good or bad,” he said. “We did not see eye to eye.”
Club manager Veasna, however, contended that the fighters were paid fairly. “He brought only 15 fighters from Phnom Penh and other clubs, which was not enough, and the matches are always fought by the same faces,” he said. “We paid them in full, but what he did could embarrass us.”