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People play tug of war in Kandal province during Khmer New year in 2014. UNESCO on Wednesday granted heritage recognition to the game for its cultural importance in the South East Asia region.
People play tug of war in Kandal province during Khmer New year in 2014. UNESCO on Wednesday granted heritage recognition to the game for its cultural importance in the South East Asia region. Photo supplied

UN feels tug of teanh prot

One of Cambodia’s favourite popular pastimes, teanh prot, a version of tug of war, will now be safeguarded as an official piece of world heritage by UNESCO.

Released on Wednesday, an updated UNESCO inventory named the Kingdom’s tradition of playful struggle among 20 new elements on its list of items protected by the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The list noted the significance of the ritual, typically engaged in at Khmer New Year in Cambodia, to other Asian farming cultures in the region, including those in the Philippines, Vietnam and South Korea. All play similar versions of the game in marking a new agricultural cycle with hopes for an abundant harvest.

In making the announcement, UNESCO explained that “cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.”

Local authorities welcomed the development, echoing the goals of the convention, which seeks to preserve heritage in the face of rapid globalisation and social transformation.

“We need to take care of this game, now less popular in an age of new technology,” said Thai Norak Satya, spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts,

“We want people today to know about our national games and are working with UNESCO to add more things to the list,” he explained. “Personally, I am really proud that we are bringing together humanity to value and help protect, develop and conserve these.”

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