The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts held the inaugural Khmer Sampot Bot Gala to educate Cambodian children on the importance of traditional Khmer skirts and their role in preserving national culture.

The function was presided over by Men Sam An, a member of the Supreme Privy Council to the King. The March 1-3 event saw attendance from culture minister Phoeurng Sackona, alongside various leaders and artists, both local and international.

Speaking at the gathering, ministry secretary of state Sannara Lundi explained that the gala aimed to highlight the simplicity and dignity of the sampot bot, roughly translated as “folded skirt”, which is suitable for all social positions and levels.

She emphasised that the skirt – common among state employees and government officials and, if made from silk, is worn in special occasions such as wedding ceremony – is not only an intangible cultural heritage but also an invaluable tradition.

She said that the festivities were designed to promote the significance of the traditional dress to the public, aiming to inspire Cambodian youth in particular, to cherish their culture and encourage Cambodian women to appreciate the beauty of sampot bot, thus participating in preserving ancestral traditions and customs.

“As the next generation of Cambodians, we have a responsibility to care for, protect and promote our traditions to make them a practical part of daily life. This is crucial for people from all walks of life, especially the younger generation, to understand the value of traditional clothing as a component of our national identity,” she stated.

Sam An stressed the importance of the gala for the younger generation of Cambodians and highlighted its role in enhancing their knowledge and understanding of the history and value of traditional Khmer clothing.

She also urged fashion designers to be mindful of the pricing of clothes for Cambodian children, advising against over-designing, which might result in inappropriate attire. Her guidance aimed to ensure that Cambodian clothing remains mature, polite and dignified.

“Clothing is a part of the culture that confirms the roots of our ancient civilisation. Therefore, preserving, developing and promoting this unique cultural heritage is the duty of every Cambodian. It’s essential to understand the history, values and heritage behind our clothing, how to wear these garments appropriately for various ceremonies and times, as well as to participate in national and international promotion,” she said.

Sam An noted the clear history and evolution of Khmer clothing. She said to date, Khmer clothing could be categorised into distinctive periods, including the Nokor Phnom (Funan), Chenla, Angkor, Chaktomuk, Longvek and Odong, as well as the colonial era, the Sangkum Reastr Niyum period and the current era.

She noted that the event also featured an exhibition titled “Our Handicraft Exhibition”, which showcased a variety of locally made or processed Khmer products.