Banteay Srei District Administration in Siem Reap province is working with a number of partners to build a collection of “tokkata yeak”, or giant puppets, for display during national holidays, in the latest imaginative idea to lure local and international visitors to the district just northeast of Siem Reap town.

District governor Khim Finan said the project was the collaboration of the district administration and a group called Giant Puppets that has pulled off similar works in the province prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the “Giant Puppets” project is also supported by Girl Guides Association of Cambodia, Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, tourism associations, and local businesses.

The massive, often ludicrous puppets are moved to and from, and create a more enjoyable atmosphere for visitors, Finan enthused. The figures for the project will be carefully crafted, with meaningful messages related to culture, the environment and innovation, but with a splash of Banteay Srei identity, he said.

“The most important thing is that these giant puppets will be made by hand by young children and youths, with the support of bunch of companies and the general public, and led and monitored by Phare Ponleu Selpak from Battambang province,” he added.

With frames made of bamboo and rattan, the puppets are decoratively covered by lights and coloured paper, and mounted on wheels, making then easy to move around during parades and other events, Finan said.

Planned figures include tigers – as 2022 marks the Year of the Tiger on the lunar calendar – classics from the dance drama genre Lakhon Khol, the ladies of the Banteay Srei temple – which translates from Khmer as “Citadel of Women” – the critically endangered Bengal florican native to the area, traditional Khleng Ek style kites, sellers of “Nom Banh Chok” – a local dish of rice noodles – among many others.

The district governor noted that the project started early last month, but had been met with delays due to the spread of the coronavirus Omicron variant. Still, Finan said some of the puppets were expected to be ready and on display at the weekend, with more coming for International Women’s Day on March 8.