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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Scouting returns after 27 years

Scouting returns after 27 years

scout.jpg
scout.jpg

Scouts wearing the Cambodian green scarves parade in front of the Royal Palace.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) has recreated the country's Scouting

Association, selecting thousands of students to train as role models for their peers.

Ou Sophany, national youth program commissioner of the group and a deputy director

at MEYS, said the forerunner of the Cambodian Scouting Association was last active

under the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s.

"We have recreated it to uphold the spirit and morality of young Cambodian people,

and to make them good citizens," he said.

"Youth's morality has gradually declined since 1993 and they have caused a lot

of trouble in society. These students will be trained to become good citizens and

to be courteous."

He said the decision to revive the movement came at the suggestion of a visiting

dignitary in 1997. In December 2001 the association chose 16,000 members nationwide,

including 4,200 in Phnom Penh. Among the members are school students and civil servants

in government institutions.

Sophany said scouts would learn to protect the environment and would be encouraged

to help their families, assist the poor, and be a good influence on society. Only

those students with a record of good behavior and leadership potential were chosen.

"The scout members will do [at least] one good thing a day," said Yuos

Sokhen, deputy head of the Baktuk High School. Almost 600 of his students signed

up. "They will perform their activities in cities and provinces. For instance,

they have to clean up garbage during the Water Festival."

Heng Hay, an 18-year-old student at the school, was one of those who signed up last

month. He said his parents were supportive of his decision.

"I want to help some of my bad friends become good people," he said. "We

should learn to depend on ourselves."

The group will be split between three age groups: 7-11 years; 12-17 years; and 18

and above. The youngest are considered vital - they are "the important

root," said Sophany.

He said Scouting was established in Cambodia in 1934 during French rule. King Sihanouk's

uncle, Prince Sisowath Monireth led the association until 1965 when it was headed

by Queen Kossamak, King Sihanouk's mother. The Khmer Republic set up a new movement

after the 1970 coup, but that ceased to exist with the Khmer Rouge victory in 1975.

The new body has some heavyweight political support: Sok An, Minister for the Council

of Ministers, is president, while Prime Minister Hun Sen is honorary president. Governor

Chea Sophara is in charge of the Phnom Penh scouts. Sophany said he hoped the association

would join the worldwide body next year.

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