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New Year game ban for market vendors

Norton university students play popular Khmer New Year games at the park around Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh, last week during a break from their studies. Photo by: Sovan Philong

MORE than 500 vendors at Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov market have threatened to complain to Prime Minister Hun Sen after being banned from playing traditional games over Khmer New Year.

Market owner Roath Sopheap received a letter from the Prek Pnov commune chief on Sunday stating that vendors were not allowed to play traditional Khmer games at the market over this week’s holiday.

“I got the letter … after I sent a letter to inform them about our intention to play them,” she said.

The letter, which was signed by commune chief Mich Synoun and obtained by The Post yesterday, stated that if the ban was not respected the commune hall was “not responsible” for the consequences.

Traditional games played during Khmer New Year include Chol Chhoung, in which two groups of people throw a ball back and forth until someone loses by dropping it. Everyone in the losing group can be ordered to dance or sing.

Another game is Bos Angkunh, where two teams must throw angkunh– inedible seeds – to hit the other team’s angkunh which are placed on the ground at a distance. If a team hits all of the other team’s angkunh, they win.

“I will complain in connection with this case because it seems ridiculous,” said Roath Sopheap.

Markets workers yesterday reacted angrily to the order.

Seang Khech, a fish seller, said that vendors would play the games despite the ban.

“We think it is illegal that they want to eliminate traditional games,” she said, adding that the authorities were concerned that vendors would gamble.

Sok Sareth, a gold vendor, said that traditional games were legal and were always played before and during Khmer New Year.

“We will complain to the court and Prime Minister Hun Sen to fire those officials [who made the order] if they don’t allow us to play,” she said, speaking on behalf of all vendors.

Sen Sok district deputy governor Cheng Monyra said that he was not aware of the letter containing the order. “No one prohibits them from playing traditional games, it is only illegal games that we do not allow them play,” he said.

The commune chief of Prek Pnov, Mich Synoun, could not be reached for comment yesterday.



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