BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
As of last weekend Cambodia has gained her first ever female Khmer Boxing referee. Saing Somaly, 31, wife of boxing champion E Phouthorng has refereed her first match last weekend at the Olympic Stadium. Somaly, oldest of four siblings has been involved in the sport since she was a child.
“I am happy that I was selected as the first female Khmer boxing referee in Cambodia. To fulfill this work well, I will be working hard and do my best to manage and provide fair and good judgment for all the fighters at all arenas in Cambodia,” Somaly told The Southeast Asia Weekly.
She continued by saying that she has loved the sports since she was a child. While growing up in Koh Kong province she spent a year being trained by a veteran boxing coach. She continued her training with her husband, and followed him to all his matches.
It is believed that Khmer Boxing originates as far back as the 10th century. Originating from the Kingdom of Angkor it shares is roots with regional martial arts as Muay Thai and Tomoi. In modern times it became one of Cambodians favorite sports. During colonial times the French added a boxing ring, gloves and timed rounds to the sport. When the Khmer Rouge gained power they banned all traditional martial arts, killing or working to death many of the boxers. This almost meant the end of Khmer Boxing, but since then the sport has again regained its status as popular Khmer sport. There are even Khmer Boxing originations in Germany, France, Australia, Spain and Belgium.
In Cambodia the sports is represented by the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Association (CABA). Meas Sokry, Chief of the Khmer Boxing Referees and Judges and an Executive Member of CABA stated there is a need for female referee’s to referee the female boxing matches. Sokry who is also an experienced coach with the Ministry of Interior’s Boxing Association further said that Saing Somaly, once a boxer herself, was the only female who was qualified and fit enough to referee the match which was aired on local TV-stations.
Sokry trained Somaly for two weeks in her referee skills. Together with her already extensive experience in the boxing world he believes she will become an excellent referee.
“I am very proud of Somaly because she is very active woman who has been working hard in promoting Khmer boxing in general, and specifically female boxing in Cambodia. She will represent Cambodian women and be a credit to Cambodia in general,” he told The Southeast Asia Weekly during a telephone interview on August 6.
Besides working as referee, Somaly is currently also working as Boxing Coach Assistant with her husband’s boxing association (E Phouthorng Boxing Club) in Phnom Penh.
“I will never take for granted the fact that I am a boxing referee in Cambodia,” she said. I will be working hard and I will continue my work until I am retired in order to promote Khmer female boxing in the future,” said Sokry.
Long Salavorn, President and boxing coach of the Salavorn Boxing Club in Phnom Penh, stated that he admires Saing Somaly’s talents and experience. He said Somaly’s boxing experiences will allow her to perform her duty well in the future. “I hope that with her strong interest and commitment to the sport, she will become the best female Khmer boxing referee in Cambodia.”