Major General Osoth Bhavilai, president of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF), said he considered the March 21 torch lighting ceremony to be a milestone event demonstrating the commitment of Cambodia as host of the upcoming 32nd SEA Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games.

The ceremony was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other leaders in attendance.

On behalf of the APSF and the ASEAN paralympic community (APC), Osoth Bhavilai extended “profound” thanks to the King, saying that all Cambodian and ASEAN disabled persons are very excited and looking forward to the Para Games in Cambodia.

“I am honoured to participate in this great event … Today marked a historic torch lighting ceremony at the world-renowned Angkor Wat Temple. The ceremony will remain in our hearts as Cambodia is set to host the biennial multi-sport event for the first time in history,” he said.

“This torch lighting ceremony is not only a great event and a legacy of the commitment of Cambodia as the host country, but also a show of the long-established friendship among the peoples of ASEAN. It presents an opportunity for all ASEAN people to organise and celebrate together as part of the games,” he added.

Osoth Bhavilai added that the presence of the leadership of the APSF at the ceremony is a testament to the close cooperation between the APSF and the Cambodian para-games committee to smoothly and successfully hold the 12th ASEAN Para Games.

“I wholeheartedly thank King Norodom Sihamoni and the prime minister as well as all Cambodians for their efforts to hold today’s event successfully [because] sports bring peace and equality,” he said. “We must live with the spirit of the common ASEAN movement with one voice to work towards peace and mutual understanding in line with the motto ‘sports live in peace’.”

As of March 23, the 12th ASEAN Para Games is now 72 days away. The event is set to take place on June 3 and conclude on June 9.

Many disabled sportspersons were enlisted to run the torch relay and run the relay and each of them was proud of being offered this special opportunity.

As a gold medallist at the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia, Vith Chantha was paired with SEA Games gold-medallist taekwondo practitioner Va Mithona, and both were given the honour of being at the torch lighting ceremony with the King.

“I was moved to tears because this was a great honour for our nation and me. I was once the girl who had to live with other families. I once washed dishes, did the laundry. I was once a housemaid and I am a disabled girl. I have never dreamed to have such a great honour,” Chantha said.

Taekwondo practitioner Va Mithona, a gold medallist at the SEA Games in Vietnam – which hosted the delayed event in 2022 after Indonesia transferred its rights the year prior due to the Covid-19 pandemic – said: “I was very happy and honoured to be allowed to stand by the King and I have also set my sights on winning a gold medal once again at the SEA Games in Cambodia in order to retain the gold medal for the host country.”