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Villagers have high hopes for ox-cart racing

Villagers have high hopes for ox-cart racing

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In a rice field left fallow after the harvest, residents of Prey Ta Ouk village, Kampong Speu province, watched and cheered on the winners of the village’s 7th Khmer traditional ox-cart race.

Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
An ox-cart driver races in Prey Ta Ouk village.

“We hold the event to promote ox cart racing, as well as local tourism and agriculture. The proceeds from tickets also help support the poorest children in the village,” said Pok Saoly, one of the race organisers.

The tradition of ox-cart racing began in the village a long time ago, but was lost during the Khmer Rouge regime, according to Pok Saoly, one of the race’s organisers. The sport has seen a resurgence since 2007, he said.

The Prey Ta Ouk race is held twice a year – once to celebrate the January harvest and once a few days before Khmer new year – and has become so popular that organisers hope to hold more races throughout the year.

“We hope to promote ox-cart racing outside the village, and create a championship for the district or province to select the best oxen,” said Pok Saoly.

“We plan to have a weekly or monthly competition to attact local and foreign visitors,” he said.

According to organisers, nine pairs of oxen participated in the race, while others were also busy racing in other villages and districts.

“Normally, I train my oxen for about half a month before the competition. We do six laps a day around a field,” said race winner Yub Kom, adding that he feeds his oxen plenty of rice and grass to keep them healthy between races.

Even though competitions have already spread to different places in the Kingdom, Pok Saoly hopes ox-cart racing will someday reach all Cambodians on television like other sports.

“Now we are looking for sponsors so we can support a national championship,” Pok Saoly said. “I think it can promote traditional Cambodian sport.”

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