Khmer New Year - Popular Game
By: Ly Vanna . Picture by: Nathan Dexter ( April, 2002 Volume 2 No.4 )

Khmer New Year brings with it its own culture of fun and frivolity. That includes traditional games that have been played at this time of year for centuries. Here is Leisure Cambodia's guide to the four most popular games.


To play this game, two teams are needed-a team of girls on one side and boys on the other. A krama is tied into knots until it becomes like a large cloth ball with loose edges to grip and throw it. There are two distinct types of chhoung. The first is chhoung rorm chreang (singing and dancing chhoung), when the boy's team throw the chhoung into the girl's team. If the girls cannot catch it, they must pick it up off the ground and throw it back. The boy who gets the chhoung next can try to hit the girl he likes with it. If he gets her, she must sing and dance for him. If not, it is the girl's team's turn to try and hit a boy to make him sing and dance. The most popular song goes: "I can catch this chhoung and break it into four parts. Oh my darling, please get this chhoung". For the other variety, chhoung loh kangom, the rules are the same, except if a boy is hit, he must go to the girl's side, and vice versa.


Angkunh is the large, dark brown nut of a vine. To play this game, two groups of players get together a boy's team and a girl's team. The teams take the Angkunh, which are now called kuoy for the purpose of the game, and place three to five on the ground. These are called the "planting kuoy". Each team then takes more of the nuts and throws these "hitting kuoy" at the planting kuoy, trying to hit them.The team that hits the least planting kuoys loses, and the other team then gets to hit them on the knee with kuoys. There are two ways of doing this. Bai trachheak (cold rice) means the winner puts one kuoy on the opponent's knee and hits with another one. Bai gadao means they put two kuoys together as before but harder so it makes a cracking sound. If no sound is created, the person being hit is allowed to do the same back to the person who has failed to produce the sound.


Proart is a leather rope or line. Teanh means to pull. Much the same as tug'o'war. Girls and boys form two teams. A boy and a girl are chosen to stand at each end of the rope. A referee shouts "yak-or" and the players reply "ho-verr" three times to ensure everyone is ready, then the referee rings a bell as each player pulls until he sees which one has been pulled over the line drawn in the dirt by the opponent. That player is the loser.


This is played throughout Cambodia. About 10 people sit in a circle. They are not allowed to turn around or look behind them. One person takes a krama tied the same way as the chhoung and runs around the circle behind the players. He or she drops the krama behind one of the circle. If that person does not then hit the player next to them in the direction the runners is going in, or the person who should have been hit will pick up the krama and hit the unfortunate person whom it was dropped behind with it instead. They then become the runner until they can trick someone else, and so on.