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Klok Techah

Klok Techah, pronounced “klok deh-jah,” also known as Ambaoh Klok or simply Klok, is a white sacred yarn used to make the Kun Khmer headband known as “Tey Krou” and the armbands known as “Prathap Dai.” Both items are often believed to bring good luck, protection, and spiritual blessings to the fighters. It is sometimes mistakenly spelled as “Pluk,” possibly due to a misconception that it is associated with “Pluk Damrei” (elephant tusk), as it is also white like an elephant tusk and contains sacred elements. However, the old Khmer Dictionary, published in 1938 and officially recognized today as Samdech Porthinhean Chuon Nath’s Khmer Dictionary, spells it as “Klok” and defines it as “Amboah Mongkul,” translating to the “prosperous or good luck thread.” Klok Techah holds a repository of rich cultural significance.

The word Klok in Khmer as it is spelled in the Khmer Dictionary first published in 1938 (the photo is of the page in the 5th edition printed in 1967)

The Faded Ritual Practice

In ancient times, boxing programs played a pivotal role in significant royal ceremonies, drawing the attendance of the King and high ranking officials. Unfortunately, various traditional practices, including the use of Klok Techah, faded into obscurity due to foreign influence during extended periods of colonization and wars in the country.

With Cambodia now enjoying full peace, the Khmer Boxing Federation has reinstated Klok Techah to represent its identity after years of disappearance. His Excellency Lt. Gen. Tem Moen, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of National Defense and President of the Kun Khmer Federation, underscores the significance of reintroducing Klok Techah. It symbolizes the ancient power of Khmer martial arts, reminiscent of the depictions found on the walls of Angkor Wat. While, in some events, the Krama (scarf) serves as a substitute for Klok, being another national symbol of Cambodia, Lt. Gen. Tem Moen urges all future national and international events to fully embrace the cultural legacy embodied by Klok Techah.

Historical Parallel in Thailand and the Controversy

Interestingly, in ancient Thailand, a similar sacred yarn known as “Mongkul” was utilized, evolving into a larger and lengthier Mongkul shape.

As Cambodia gained peace, efforts to revive lost or forgotten cultural practices began, leading to accusations of cultural copying or theft between the two neighboring countries. However, these shared practices originated from a common source, and each country has developed them based on its unique resources and circumstances.

To foster neighborly relations, both countries should focus on developing and preserving their cultural heritage, recognizing that cultures inevitably intersect and influence one another. Let the readers contemplate this shared cultural journey.

My sketch of a Kun Khmer Fighter wearing Tey Krou and Prathap Dai
klok techah