With Khmer New Year just around the corner, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron has advised students at all public and private schools not to engage in the water fights with squirt guns and coloured powders, an activity that has become popular for young people in Cambodia and is also a part of holiday celebrations in several other countries.

In an April 7 letter, he said the ministry has observed that some students from high schools are spraying or splashing water, throwing water balloons and coloured powders, which he said are not traditional Khmer folk games and are disorderly, undignified and unsafe.

“To prevent possible phenomena and guarantee dignity and safety, the ministry bans any games that are not Khmer folk traditions or dances because some of these games pose risks and are unsafe and dangerous,” the letter read.

The ministry also advised school management, teachers and the councils for children and youth to distribute responsibilities and work in shifts to supervise activities so that the students will do their part to play folk games happily and safely. They also have to be mindful of taking care of their health and maintain personal hygiene to prevent infectious diseases.

The minister also told the schools to cooperate closely with the parents or guardians of students, leaders in communities and local authorities to exchange information regarding negative activities of any students so that they can be educated and instructed in a timely manner.

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said the ministry’s ban is correct because these chaotic water fights can cause road traffic accidents.

“The ban is good, but it is possible for this work to be done further with local authorities to educate them. Furthermore, at school, we have also seen these banned games continue,” he said.

He said the educational offices in districts in each province have to enforce this restriction and exert pressure on school principals. Authorities or police also have to keep an eye on activities in public places on a regular basis so the ministry’s ban will be effective.