Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.a.3

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Cambodia has nominated Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet (No. 01374) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet is practised in one community surrounding a Buddhist monastery, Wat Svay Andet – located about 10km east of Phnom Penh on the Mekong River – and is performed by men wearing masks to the accompaniment of a traditional orchestra and melodious recitation. The specific aim is to propitiate the Neak Ta (guardian spirits of a place and its people), thereby protecting and bringing prosperity to the community, its lands and harvest. When Lkhon Khol is performed, spirit mediums are present and facilitate interactions between the Neak Ta, performers and villagers. When the spirits are satisfied with the performance, villagers are blessed by them; otherwise, the dancers stop, the music continues, and the audience falls silent and carefully listens to the spirits. Lkhon Khol is performed for ritual purposes, mostly linked to the cycle of rice farming and the needs of farming communities. The practice is transmitted orally within the community, and the Head Monk and retired primary school principal recently initiated additional weekend classes and started writing down scripts for selected episodes. After generations of transmission, however, several factors now threaten the viability of the element, including environmental factors, insufficient resources, economic migration from the community and a fourteen-year break in transmission from 1970 to 1984 due to the war and the Khmer Rouge regime.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

U.1:   The ritual practice of Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet unites the local lay population of the Ta Skor and Peam Ta Ek villages with the Buddhist monastic community at Wat Svay Andet, where it has a deep spiritual meaning and social relevance. Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet is a prayer for happiness and prosperity, especially rain and a good harvest, and is also considered as a powerful tool to ward off calamities and diseases. As all community members contribute to the successful enactment of the performance, its existence is truly collective. Traditionally, the element has been transmitted orally, but nowadays additional weekend classes also strengthen it.

U.2:   The viability of the element was most seriously threatened during the Khmer Rouge regime. The last five masters of the Lkhon Khol continue to transmit their knowledge; however, the majority of them are over seventy years old and some are critically ill. Moreover, as each master artist specializes in performing a specific character, transmission of other roles is very difficult. Many men of a productive age have left the community, which now consists mostly of young children and elderly women. The community’s socio-economic situation also directly impacts people’s ability to dedicate time and resources to continuing the tradition. The community strives to maintain the social function of the ritual and avoid its commercialization and performing for economic gains, which makes it difficult to finance the acquisition of new costumes and masks and a new performance area.

U.4:   The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts established a working group to cooperate with the local community during the preparation of the nomination file. A research team engaged in close, inclusive consultations with the Wat Svay Andet community and Lkhon Khol representatives. Community representatives, selected master artists, the head monk of Wat Svay Andet and the manager of Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet provided their free, prior and informed consent.

U.5:   The element has been included in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cambodia since 2004, and the entry was last updated in 2016. The inventory is periodically updated by the Directorate General of Techniques for Cultural Affairs of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, based on information provided by representatives of the Provincial Departments of Culture and Fine Arts, communities and NGOs. Members of the local community, including the monks, collaborated with the researchers in the identification and inventorying process.

  1. Further decides that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session concerning the budget of the safeguarding plan, the following criterion for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is satisfied:

U.3:   The clearly structured safeguarding plan and budget are centered on community participation, and the safeguarding measures concentrate on increasing opportunities for performances, raising public awareness and, most importantly, intensifying transmission and providing the necessary material background. The community is willing to learn from good safeguarding practices by networking with others with similar experiences. The sustainable safeguarding strategy presented does not seem to require large financial inputs, preventing dependence on external resources.

  1. Inscribes Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Commends the State Party that the file presented a well-conceived and community-based safeguarding plan.