Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Scouts regroup for a comeback



Khmer Scouts regroup for a comeback

Khmer Scouts regroup for a comeback

There are than 240,000 of them in neighboring Thailand, nearly 90,000 in Malaysia,

another 2.2 million in the Philippines and a total of 16 million in 131 associations

around the globe. But if you asked young Cambodians on the street about the meaning

of the word "scout" only a few would have any notion.

This look's certain to change as more youngsters here learn that the scouts is the

world's biggest youth organization with much to offer. It was founded in 1913 by

the Englishman Lord Robert Baden-Powell as an educational organization based on simple

but attractive principles such as the outdoor life. Banned under communism, the movement

is now making a comeback in Cambodia.

Under the guidance of the new Ministry for Youth, Sports and Women's Affairs, the

first batch of about 50 boys and girls, smoothly dressed in their new uniforms with

red-blue scarves, gather every Sunday morning at the Olympic Stadium.

With keen interest they listen to the story of the founder "B.P." and learn

the rudiments of scouting-orientation, first aid and woodcraft. Each week, more youngsters

drop in and ask the two ancient scouts, Seng Heang and Bin Por Ang, who act as leaders

and instructors of the group, if they can join in.

The interest shown by children and parents has encouraged Seng Heang, who has been

asked by Youth Minister Keat Sukun to reawaken the Khmer Scouts.

"We would like to initiate more groups in other provinces," he says. "But

for this year we concentrate our efforts on Phnom Penh and the main provinces-Battambang,

Kandal, Siem Reap and Kompong Cham."

Seng Heang is occupied with basic problems like money but hopes that some day the

Khmer Scouts will be able to leave the delapidated stadium and build their own home.

A short term goal is the publication of handbooks and a first camping outing. But

the lack of tents and camping material, the rainy season and the prevailing security

problem, prevent the group from venturing further afield.

Leaders also need to be trained. Seng Heang can draw a lot of knowledge from his

experiences at the Site 2 camp. Together with Snguon Malayath, he was responsible

for its Scout group with more than 1,000 members.

The Khmer Scout Association (Angka Khemarak Kayrith, AKK) was created in 1934 under

the direction of Prince Monireth. Other leaders, like Tep Im, Long Touch or Pok Thien,

marked the first era of the AKK which spread over several provinces and counted far

more than 1,000 members when the movement was, in 1956, transformed into the "Scouts

of the Queen."

This step away from the fundamentals of scouting prepared the way for a total transformation

of the AKK into the "Royal Socialist Khmer Youth" (Jeunesse socialiste

royaliste Khmers, JSRK) in 1957 with Prince Norodom Sihanouk as president of this

state-ruled organization.

It was only in 1972 when Scouting would be reestablished for a short period with

ten groups, each with more than 100 members. The war kept the Scouts confined to

the capital.

"There were very few groups in the provinces," recalls Tep Nitha who was

a group leader at that time and now a member of the committee of the Khmer Youth

Association. "We did a lot of humanitarian work and could make only a few hikes

around the outskirts of the capital."

Links have now been formed with the World Organization in Geneva, and Seng Heang

is stressing the voluntary, independent and non-political character of the movement

which is open to members of every religion. "Our common motivation," says

Seng Heang, " is that we want to be Scouts."

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and