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Kingdom defends its ballet

Kingdom defends its ballet

The Cambodian government last week condemned statements made by members of Thailand’s Yellow Shirts that the origins of Khmer Royal Ballet were derived from traditions in Thailand.

The statements were reported on the website of Thai television network ASTV nearly two weeks ago and quoted Yellow Shirt members as saying that “both music and dance of [the Khmer Royal Ballet’s] modern forms are of Thai characteristics”.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the statements were unreasonable and baseless.

“We think that this statement has shown the bad dignity and culture of these Thai extremist groups, which aim at insulting, creating polluted environments and lying about national and international issues to people in the world.”

In 2003, the Khmer Royal Ballet was proclaimed a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. This international distinction, according to UNESCO, honours “the most remarkable examples of oral traditions and forms of cultural expression in all regions of the world”.

The National World Heritage Committee issued a statement last week to help explain why the Khmer Royal Ballet was its own cultural artefact, and not based in Thai traditions.

It said the Khmer Royal Ballet started at “the beginning of the Christian period and continued to be performed during Angkorian, post-Angkorian periods up to the present time, as depicted on galleries of ancient Khmer temples and architecture”.

Cambodia and the Yellow Shirts, who support current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have quarreled for several years over border demarcations, particularly over land near the Preah Vihear temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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