Friday, 15 February 2008
Koh Santepheap newspaper
Translated from Khmer by KI-Media
In an interview with Koh Santepheap at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) in Phnom Penh, Chey Mongkol indicated that his presence in Phnom Penh is to purchase books used to teach young Khmer children in Surin. He said that book merchants in Phnom Penh had given him 250 books also, and most of these books are for first grade level.
Chey mongkol indicated that only about 1-2% of Khmer people in Surin know their native Khmer language and still speak Khmer in Surin currently, but most of them are already very old. He added that the younger Khmer people no longer speak Khmer, they only know Thai: “I spend a lot of time teaching them, I want to preserve our Khmer language, otherwise, our Khmer language will disappear.”
Nevertheless, Chey Mongkol said that his teaching to young Khmer children did not meet with any opposition from the Thai authority. He added that, in the past, about 40-years ago, Khmer people were afraid to use their own language because they were forced to speak Thai at school and in public places, later on, Khmer people lost the habit of speaking their own language, and some say they are ashamed, and they stop speaking Khmer altogether.
Chey Mongkol claimed that, in spite of all this, the preservation of old Khmer customs in Surin still remains somewhat even if there is an influx of foreign culture or modern culture which seriously affect the preservation of Khmer Surin original culture. He added, currently, only old Khmer people still speak Khmer at home, whereas the younger generations no longer speak Khmer anymore.
Chey Mongkol said that he started a library for the students to read Khmer because he believes that Khmer teaching is not sufficient yet, therefore the additional book reading could complete part of the education. He added: “We want Khmer in Surin to preserve Khmer language so that it would be easier for them to communicate with Cambodians inside Cambodia.”
From Phnom Penh, Chey Mongkol will take back to Surin documents in Khmer language. He indicated also that he is giving a lecture to RUFA students where he showed slides about the situation of Khmer students in Surin, about dances performed by Khmer people in Surin, so that RUFA students understand about the current issues faced by Khmer people in Surin.
History students who listened to Chey Mongkol’s lecture said that they are interested about the history of Khmer people in Surin who has the same customs, and same origin as other Khmer people, and they want to preserve our Khmer language also in order to facilitate the communication between themselves and Khmer people in Cambodia. The RUFA students added: “Even though we are separated because of past history, but we are still one single people, we must connect with each others.”
Chey Mongkol indicated also: “In my family, they do not talk Khmer that much, some speak Thai, others speak Lao. Only I persevere to speak Khmer, even at the market, they don’t want to speak Khmer, but they speak Thai and Lao instead.” He added: “I am calling for the generosity of people who want to help expand Khmer language to help provide their support to me.” He added that he is working hard to help educate young generations of Khmer children to know their Khmer language, and to preserve their Khmer language.
For those who wish to support Chey Mongkol and Khmer Schools in Surin, please contact Chey Mongkol at the following email address: KhmerSurin@gmail.com.