Unesco has put Cambodia’s Lbokator martial art on its cultural world heritage list, as elated local officials and practitioners say they hope it will spur efforts to preserve the tradition.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, told VOD on Wednesday that Unesco had inscribed the ancient martial art of Kun Lbokator on its list of intangible cultural heritage following a presentation by the Cambodian culture minister at a meeting in Morocco.
A Unesco announcement shows that the listing came alongside traditional Chinese tea techniques, bear festivities in the Pyrenees, Ukrainian borscht and other traditions from around the world.
Unesco notes that Lbokator includes elements of dance, music, traditional medicine, amulets, tattoos and weapons.
Chamroeun said Cambodia had worked toward the Unesco listing for many years with participation from older masters. He had begun promoting Lbokator in 2001, and worked on its first application to Unesco in 2018 before following up with this year’s application.
“It is a success for the global values for our Kun Lbokator,” Chamroeun said, noting the martial art’s importance for the ancient Khmer empire.
The counterpart to attaining world heritage status was the responsibility that comes along with it to preserve the tradition, he said.
“If we are a bit careless, they can remove it or issue a warning. … Retaining the listing is also a difficult thing, for which we need to continue with the will of unity from all relevant parties,” he said. “If we can’t prepare a plan to keep the values, we can lose it. This is important.”
He hoped to promote further excitement in the martial art, he said.
Om Yom, one of Lbokator’s few remaining old masters, told VOD that a Culture Ministry official had informed him about the recognition, and he had shared it with his students. He was excited to share Lbokator’s values with the world, he said.
“Before, the values of our martial arts were just inside the country, and we had not spread out to the world,” he said. “The whole world will understand that Kun Lbokator is originally from Cambodia, from Khmer. So this is what we feel proud of.”
He and other older masters had worked in the past to compile documents about the ancient martial art, but it was difficult to do in a personal capacity. He hoped the Unesco listing would bring more resources for such work.