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Cultural uppercut

Members of an inter-ministerial taskforce are scheduled to meet today to discuss plans to nominate traditional Khmer boxing for inclusion in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Tem Moeun, president of the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation, said officials plan to nominate the martial art, known as Kbach Kun Boran Khmer, for inclusion in the list next year.

“We have almost completed the research about Kbach Kun Boran Khmer for submission to the list,” he said.

“We have many reference documents related to our boxing, and we expect that we will be able to register it ... by 2011.”

UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list is designed to help preserve and raise awareness of a wide range of international traditional cultural practices that also includes Peruvian scissor dancing, Tibetan opera and the Mediterranean diet.

Taem Moeun said Kbach Kun Boran Khmer deserved to be listed because there was evidence – in the form of carvings found on Angkor Wat and temples in Kampong Thom province – that the martial art dates back at least to the Angkorian period.

He said the practice of Khmer boxing had been abandoned during decades of civil war but began experiencing a re-birth after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, and estimated that more than 1,000 people are currently practicing the martial art in Cambodia.

“Kbach Kun Boran Khmer now is very popular for Cambodians, and it is now developing and spreading out to other countries in the region as well as in the world,” he said, adding that he hoped a UNESCO listing would help to further increase the popularity of Khmer boxing.

“I hope that more people will know about our traditional boxing after it is included as [intangible cultural heritage] in the near future,” he said.

Officials from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, and the Cambodian Amateur Federation, are scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh today to discuss the nomination.

Sbek Thom, Khmer shadow puppet theatre, is the only traditional Cambodian practice which is currently included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.



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