The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior official.

CAMSOC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun made the remarks after the Thai side made a U-turn on their threat of boycott over the use of the term Kun Khmer.

Chamroeun said that at the same time, Cambodia also has the will and ambition to expand the Khmer martial art to all future SEA Games in other countries and other sporting events around the world.

Following a special meeting of the KKIF leaders with other countries’ federations, held in Phnom Penh on January 26, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia all pledged their support for the inclusion of Kun Khmer at the May games and committed to entering the event.

Thailand – which recently announced that it would boycott the event to protest the exclusion of “Muay” – relented and also announced that its fighters will compete in the Cambodian form of kickboxing.

“Their decision to compete in Kun Khmer stems from their love of all martial arts, regardless of their origin. We have extended an open hand to them, and they have accepted it,” said Chamroeun, following the special meeting.

“We could not close the door to their participation, as the spirit of the games encapsulates international cooperation. The Thais have been organising large tournaments in their country for 30 or 40 years, so their support will be invaluable. We are pleased they have decided to take part,” he added.

Chamroeun, who is also secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), praised the decision of Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, and now Thailand, to enter as an honour for Khmer Martial Arts. Kun Khmer has now secured the support of eight of the 11 nations that will participate in the games.

“As a result of what we have achieved, we will be able to introduce our unique combat sport to other nations after the games are concluded,” he said.

“The participating countries have already agreed on the weight classes. To encourage respect for Kun Khmer, which represents part of the identity of our ancestors, we will include Kun Kru – the traditional rituals of the sport – for both men and women’s events. Every athlete who takes part will study the correct performance of these rituals, using our language and our art,” he added.

The federation has established a specific uniform which is in line with the deep-seated cultural roots of the sport. Each competitor will wear a headband which displays their national flag.

“At every arena in Cambodia, we follow these rich traditions. We formed the international Khmer boxing federation in order to take our sport to the world. Whether they will accept it or not it is another matter, but it is our ambition to see Kun Khmer appearing at more international tournaments in the future,” added Chamroeun.