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Push for cultural icons to join UN heritage list

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Unesco’s committee selected Lakhon Khol for the world heritage list in November last year. Pha Lina

Push for cultural icons to join UN heritage list

The Ministry of Fine Arts and Culture is hoping to have Cambodian musical theatre Lakhon Yike, traditional silver handicrafts and other art forms placed on Unesco’s cultural heritage list, it announced on Wednesday.

After closing the 5th Youth Art Festival at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theatre on Wednesday, Minister of Fine Arts and Culture Phoeurng Sackona said the ministry is looking to further register other tangible and intangible examples of cultural heritage, following the inclusion of traditional Cambodian dance drama Lakhon Khol last year.

“We filed for [Cambodian martial art] l’bokator to be included on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2017 and are now waiting for the decision from Unesco in 2020."

“The ministry is currently preparing documents on silk weaving . . . Lakhon Yike and traditional silver handicrafts to prepare a request to the Unesco committee in order have them registered on the world heritage list,” Sackona said.

Hab Touch, the director-general of the General Department of Cultural Affairs at the ministry, told The Post on Wednesday that l’bokator had been filed with the Unesco committee since early 2017 along with Lakhon Khol.

Unesco’s committee selected Lakhon Khol for the world heritage list in November last year, while l’bokator’s inclusion was still being decided due to similar claims from neighbouring countries.

“At the moment, we are preparing for l’bokator in 2020 because Thailand and other Asean members states have made similar requests to the Unesco committee,” Touch said.

Cambodia has successfully registered eight examples of tangible and intangible cultural heritage with Unesco – Angkor Wat, royal dance, Lakhon Sbek, or Lakhon Sbek Thom, Preah Vihear temple, Khmer tug-of-war, Champei Dong Veng, Sambor Prei Kuk temple and Lakhon Khol.

Lakhon Khol began in the early Angkor era. In accordance with bas-reliefs on Angkor temple walls, it is believed that the genre was first performed in the ninth century.

According to the book Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cambodia, Lakhon Khol was developed as an entirely male version of Khmer classical court dance.

The only story specifically performed by Lakhon Khol is the Reamke, the Khmer version of the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic poem.

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