Cambodian performers are set to travel to northern Thailand to perform the lakorn khol – an art form that sparked controversy on social media last month when it came to light that Thailand was seeking UNESCO recognition for its version of the masked dance, which many Cambodians claimed belongs to Khmer culture.
Prime Minister Hun Sen made the announcement via his Facebook page on Saturday, saying that in addition to Cambodia’s, versions of the dance will be performed by four other countries – Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and South Korea – at an ASEAN-backed cultural festival.
The lakorn khol is based on an adaptation of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, as is the Thai royal khon. Despite the online criticism that cropped up over the news that Thailand would be seeking recongnition for the khon – “This dance [belongs] to Cambodia, not Thailand”, as one Facebook user bluntly put it – Ministry of Culture spokesman Thai Norak Satya insisted there would be no controversy at the performances later this week.
Norak Satya noted that both the lakorn khol and the khon stemmed from the same root. There would be no conflict, he added, “because intangible cultural heritage is different from tangible heritage, which can be located by GPS”.