Cambodia’s education ministry has instructed schools to prevent “unusual activities” during Valentine’s Day, saying the event was not a “traditional holiday” in Cambodia.
It added that “for the last few years, it has been getting more and more attention causing our youth to forget about their studies, self-virtue and families, and break Khmer culture and traditions.”
The letter instructed both public and private educational institutions to educate students and “strengthen morals” by disciplining students, though it did not provide examples of what constituted “unusual activity”.
Ros Soveacha, education spokesman, said Valentine’s Day “confused students” who thought it was “a day when lovers have a date; but it is not a traditional Cambodian holiday.”
He declined to comment on what was meant by “unusual activities”, saying “we don’t have a specific definition for it” but that it meant “anything that is not proper in society”.
Thai Norak Sathya, culture spokesman, said it was “okay to adopt foreign culture” but young Cambodians “should have some conscience and respect for Khmer culture.”
“We can only remind them not to overdo anything to the point that Cambodian society cannot accept it. For example, develop the love for each other into something that is against Khmer tradition.”
Ouk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers' Association, said another approach would be better.
“I think the ministry issues these letters every year, but is it effective? No, it’s not. But it’s good that it takes some action to remind the youth,” she said. “So I think the ministry should make it as a test day, to to shift youth attention. That I think is better that just issuing the instructing letter.”