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

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro