A Change of Guard

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Monday, 4 July 2016

Contentious dance to be performed in Thailand

Manekseka Sangkum:

This culture debate and dispute are set to go on for some time to come between the two neighbouring countries, who are more alike in tradition and culture than they know each other. The Thai [Siamese] kingdoms emerged out of the decline and eventual disintegration of the Khmer Empire, much as the various European tribes [making up the EU nations today] did from the same historical process in relations to the Roman Empire. It is likely that these sub-groups had been exposed, and assimilated to, the earliest Khmer-Mon culture and influence much earlier than they had been to the 'higher' Angkorean court culture that their rulers so admired and eagerly sought to preserve and imitate, from music and writing system to the dance of the Khmer royal ballet. 

In fact, the roots and foundations of such a dominant culture and art are quite "tangible" and can be ascertained, minus added alterations and decorations, which, however, do nothing to erase or conceal the original designs and forms. The problem appears to lie with the successive Thai elite [much as it does with the Annamese kingdoms to the east] and or their refusal or reluctance to acknowledge the historical facts and details. Take a look at the row of the female dancers to the left of this picture and the costumes worn. These costumes are, say many a Thai person today, 'borrowed' from Thailand, and the evidence to back up the claim? Look at what the Apsara depictions and nymphs on the walls of Angkor Wat wear!

In most aspects of culture - at least -  the modern-day Thais can be said to be 'Khmerised' in much the same vein as the Vietnamese are Sino-sized.   


Dancers perform the lakorn khol in 2009. AFP
Dancers perform the lakorn khol in 2009. AFP

Contentious dance to be performed in Thailand
Mon, 4 July 2016 ppp
Niem Chheng

Cambodian performers are set to travel to northern Thailand to perform the lakorn khol – an art form that sparked controversy on social media last month when it came to light that Thailand was seeking UNESCO recognition for its version of the masked dance, which many Cambodians claimed belongs to Khmer culture.

Prime Minister Hun Sen made the announcement via his Facebook page on Saturday, saying that in addition to Cambodia’s, versions of the dance will be performed by four other countries – Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and South Korea – at an ASEAN-backed cultural festival.

The lakorn khol is based on an adaptation of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, as is the Thai royal khon. Despite the online criticism that cropped up over the news that Thailand would be seeking recongnition for the khon – “This dance [belongs] to Cambodia, not Thailand”, as one Facebook user bluntly put it – Ministry of Culture spokesman Thai Norak Satya insisted there would be no controversy at the performances later this week.

Norak Satya noted that both the lakorn khol and the khon stemmed from the same root. There would be no conflict, he added, “because intangible cultural heritage is different from tangible heritage, which can be located by GPS”.


Kalonh Chuck ខ្មែរពីស្បែកដល់ឆ្អឹង! said...

Re: In most aspects of culture - at least - the modern-day Thais can be said to be 'Khmerised' in much the same vein as the Vietnamese are Sino-sized.

No Khmer on this planet earth could have said better!

Young Dragon Seng said...

The problem is that the Thai refused to acknowledge the Khmer influence in their culture. Instead they made up the nonexistence group called "Khom" that influenced them. It's a way of saying your country is poor and Thailand couldn't have been influenced by a poor country.

Anonymous said...

there is a big difference between thai music/rhythm and khmer's and their dance movement is more stiff/rigid -- not fluid like ours....