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Gov’t Hopes Kite Festival Will Keep Traditions Flying High

Cambodian people hold their kites before their kite flying at an annual traditional kite flying event in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. Kite flying was one of the royal "ceremonies of the twelve months", according a National Kite Museum. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Khleng Ek was revived in 1994 after it was banned during the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979.

Hundreds of brightly colored kites in all shapes and sizes hovered over Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island on Wednesday to mark the 20th annual kite festival.

Some 68 kite runners from across the country attended the festival, which organizers say they hope will help to keep the tradition alive in the age of smartphones and social media.

Samrang Kamsan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, said he hoped the event would create interest among young Cambodians.

"The event not only creates a joyful moment but also promotes culture and tradition to the next generations to pay attention to the protection of national identity,” he said.

“When you run the kite in the countryside, you will always remember the scenes of your hometown – paddy fields and palm trees, so that you would not want to migrate.”

Kamsan said he also wanted to see youth developing the tradition with new ideas.

Kites in Cambodia, known as Khleng Ek, are equipped with a musical instrument called an Ek, which plays a melody when the wind passes through it. They are usually built with bamboo and paper.

The kites were invented by Cambodians almost 2500 years ago, according to historians, and were flown during the rice harvest to give thanks to the spirits of the ancestors for bringing rain.

Chhom Mao, 56, a festival attendee from Siem Reap, said it was the first time he had flown a kite since he was 10 years old.

“All kite runners love to fly the kite whenever they see the wind. When we fly kites, the neighboring kids always come around. It’s always a happy moment,” he said.

Khleng Ek was revived in 1994 after it was banned during the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979.