Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 15:14 UK

Cambodian children revive traditions

By Yana Thandrayen
BBC Scotland news


Watch extracts from Children of the Khmer

One of the most beautiful shows of the Edinburgh Fringe features Cambodian classical and folk dances - many of which are being performed in the west for the first time.

"Children of the Khmer" - funded by Cambodian Living Arts - is part of a project to restore the country's cultural heritage after it was almost destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

The show would not have been allowed 33 years ago, when the Khmer Rouge gained power in Cambodia.

It is estimated that up to 20% of its population died under the regime, through execution, starvation and forced labour.

Slum area

Artists were tortured, imprisoned and killed.

It is estimated that 90% of the country's performers lost their lives.

Master Ieng Sithul, who leads this group, speaking through an interpreter, said: "It is very difficult to let someone know about the life with the Khmer Rouge. It is very hard. Until 1977 I was a prisoner for three months."

After the fall of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, Master Sithul was able to perform again.

He now passes on his knowledge to children from a slum area in the Cambodian capital.

The project, which is run by Cambodian Living Arts, provides the children with an education and a livelihood.

children of khmer
The children perform traditional Cambodian music and dance routines
Richard Chappel, from Cambodian Living Arts, said: "Master Sithul went in to that community knowing that those types of families were there.

"He spoke to the children and said 'do you want to come and join a folk dance and classical dance group?, I can teach you' and it went from there."

Some of the dances performed by the teenage artists date back to the 11th century.

There are making the same graceful moves that would have been seen in the temples of Angkor Watt.

These young people form a living link with a past that was almost destroyed for ever.

Children of the Khmer is at The World at St George's West

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