Success Story in Cambodia

Ben Ruhe
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After its total suppression by the Khmer Rouge, kiting has made a resounding comeback in Cambodia. Last year a national kite museum was opened in the capital Phnom Penh with His Excellency Ouk Socheat, undersecretary of state for culture, presiding. Educational workshops for children at the museum were initiated and judged a great success. School tours of the facility began. And an annual kite festival bloomed with 80 enthusiastic participants. This kite activity parallels the revival of other unique Cambodian cultural manifestations such as Khmer royal dance and the country’s classic cuisine. All were victims of the Khmer Rouge, whose infamous Maoist rule from 1975-79 caused 1.7 million deaths in the small country, including most members of the educated classes.

The major figure in the return of kiting as not only a sport but also an important symbol of Cambodian cultural identity is Sim Sarak, director general for administration of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Arts. Sim was an enthusiastic flier as a boy and never forgot this early fascination. He has been greatly aided by his wife Tcheang Yarin.

Another landmark in the resurgence of kiting in the Southeast Asian nation was the recent publication------in Khmer, French, and English------of a scholarly book on Cambodian kites. This excellent, well illustrated work was written jointly by Sim and Tcheang, both of whom know English and French. The English-language version of the volume was supported by the Drachen Foundation. Drachen has also given funds to the museum for educational purposes, such as workshops and the purchase of a computer, copier, and other useful equipment.

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