Thailand’s Masked Dance Plans Lead to Online Outcry

As nationalist fervor spread among social media users over plans by Thailand to list “khon” masked dance—seen by many as being a Cambodian tradition—on Unesco’s heritage list, Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the fray on Sunday.

In a post to his Facebook page, the prime minister offered his assurances that Cambodia was also working to have Lakhaon Kaol, the Cambodian equivalent, listed by Unesco.

“The [Culture] Ministry is planning to place Lakhaon Kaol on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage [list], unlike what some Facebook users have said accusing the government of not paying attention,” he said.

Ministry spokesman Thai Noraksathya said Cambodia had already begun preparing its paperwork, and had a leg up on Thailand, which is not yet a “state party” to the World Heritage Convention.

“Thailand needs to become a state party first before being able to apply for it,” Mr. Noraksathya said.

He said the benefits of listing Lakhaon Kaol would include international recognition that it belonged to Cambodia, as well as more funding for the art form.

Two other Cambodian performance arts—the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and Sbek Thom, traditional Khmer shadow theater—were inscribed in the heritage list in 2008.

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