Cambodia has rich culture and civilization dating back to a long history for many centuries. During the Khmer Empire period between the 9th and 14th century, Cambodia was in the golden era, and became a powerful and prosperous empire that flourished and dominated large territory of mainland Southeast Asia.
Presently, marvelous temples which were built during this period; particularly Angkor Wat, Bayon…etc., are symbol of power, glorious culture and civilization, and the grandeur of architecture and decorative art of Cambodia. The influence of Angkorian culture can still be seen today, as they are representing the pride and nationalism of current-day Cambodia.
Unfortunately, Cambodia nowadays struggles to maintain self-identity and national consciousness on the pride of their culture and civilization. As a matter of fact, Cambodia is in danger of forgetting the traditional spirit, and confusing of its predecessors culture. Over the past decade, foreign cultures, especially Western, Korea, and Thai, have strongly influenced on Cambodian youngsters and youths through widely television broadcasting channels. For example, Cambodian teenagers have begun easily accepting Korean and Thai style in term of fashion, hairstyle, make-up, clothes, dancing, cuisine and even gestures. In this case, youngsters and youths forget about their identity as a Cambodian because they dissocialize its own culture and lifestyle to the new-influenced culture from other countries. In addition, foreign traditions, particularly Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year…etc., has been embracing broadly by youngsters as well as senior Cambodian. An important question to be asked is what will happen if such practices passed over from one generation to another generation? For the long-term consequence, it is not a good signal for Cambodian culture as some of our own culture will not exist anymore. However, the majority of those being influenced too strong by foreign culture are not aware that their actions may lead to identity loss.
Cultural literacy among younger generation will promote cultural preservation and protect against the influx of foreign cultural influence. I suggest municipal and provincials authorities to publicly display Cambodian’s famous historical building and structure, designed arts, food, daily lifestyle of local people, and customs for both tourists and its community. It is a creative idea to combine the traditional arts with new innovative ideas by introducing the traditional concepts with different things like music, dance, film, and technology. For example, Cambodian traditionally wear scarf, or commonly known as Krama, along with the customary long skirt, or Sampot. By such publicly performances, everybody will be aware of Cambodian popular or unknown tradition and civilization, and to preserve our culture heritage. Indeed, Classic dances and theatrical celebrations are bright lights in the world of Cambodian art. Public authorities, especially the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, should initiate traditional performance or culture show of Lakhon Yike – or Khmer spoken theatre, classical dance, Sbek thom – or shadow puppet…etc. in order to attract youngsters’ attention. Moreover, government should encourage the screening of its own cultural performance, Khmer programs and movies on television stations.
Cambodian younger generation can play a significant role in moderating the influence of foreign culture, and promoting its own culture and identity to the world. A Khmer proverb said: “If culture dies, so does the nation. And if culture is splendid, so is the nation.” The proverb aims to encourage Cambodians to adhere to, and preserve its identity as a united nation. Indeed, adopting and being aware of foreign culture does not mean all bad. We should follow it wisely. People can take benefits from cultural influences for positive points; if possible make our own new practices that will not impact on our own culture.