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   Khmer KamChroch

Khmer KamChroch are enjoyed in peace

If you are a foreigner and can read Khmer language you might will be horrified to read sings along Cambodian roads saying, ‘all kinds of Kam Chroch are sold here’, as in English this literally means, ‘All kinds of missiles sold here’.

 


That may sound frightening, but this are not like the missiles that kill people, because it is when Cambodians organize special ceremonies or doing Khmer national celebrations, that this missiles’ are exploded.

Kam Chroch may be translated in to English with to different meanings sometimes, Kam Chroch does mean ‘missile’ or rocket’- rocket that Cambodians saw kill and maim many people during the civil war. But the second meaning, and by far the more frivolous, is ‘fireworks’, the kind use the word over for enjoyment, just as Khmer take pleasure in them during traditional ceremonies. From the early 1980s, until the 1990s, Cambodians seldom saw Kam Chroch because they were too expensive and their sound too similar to that of bombs and missiles.

Before 1990, Cambodians launched Kam Chroch only in PP on victory day (January, 7), when the country celebrated the anniversary of the collapse of the Pol Pot regime.

 

Now Kam Chrochs are let of on public holidays, at the water festival (Bon Om Touk) and on Independence Day. They are also used at small community and private celebrations as Banh-chos Ceima (pagoda inaugurations) and at cremations.

Prak Nol, a 52 year-old villager of Cheoung Sdock in the Batheay district, Kampong Cham province, and who organized his sister’s cremation, says people used to misunderstand the noise. “But now it is okay, because we have peace. The launching is one of prestige in the village,” Mr. Nol says. “My sister’s cremation cost $200 with meru and the firework launching.” Meru is a product of the banana palm used as an accelerant when cremating bodies.

 





Srey Ny, 18, a sweets vendor near Prak Nol’s family cremation told her neighbour the fireworks were good because she could see them close-up. “It was a fantastic view,” Miss Ny said.
 
 

Say Seang, a 45 year-old villager in the Batheay district says because lifestyles are better now there is enough money to buy fireworks. “This is a kind of prestige in the village, because if they were poor they could not do a cremation like that,” Mr. Seang says. “The cremation, with meru and fireworks, is not cheap.

It is expensive to hire it, sometimes costing between $150 and $300 per ceremony.”
Doeur Inn, 53, has known how to make Kam Chroch since he was about ten. He produces and sells the fireworks in Kang Pisey district, Kampong Speu province. He made fireworks during the war but business was difficult.
“It became better business in the early 1990s after King Norodom Sihanouk returned to our home land,“ Mr. Inn says.

And nowadays, Mr. Inn says there are many Kam Chroch makers throughout the country.

 

Most of his clients are Cambodians. Often, they are wealthy and high-ranking government officials who buy his products and hire him to launch the fireworks for their ceremonies. “My business is good when the rainy season stops. I am hired to launch fireworks nearly every week in the dry season when Cambodians have harvested their crops,” Mr. Inn explains.
 

 

The fireworks are numbered from one to six, according to price and fire powerful on being the cheapest and least powerful. Mr. Inn says the “Number One” firecracker costs 1200 riel (about US$ 0.30) and the most expensive, “Number Six”, is 40,000 riel (US$ 10). He says compared to fireworks made overseas, Cambodian fireworks, which are made by hand, are of a poorer quality. However, he believes they give value for money. Generally, at private and small community ceremonies the Kam Chroch launched are produced in Cambodia, often made in Kang Pisey district, Kampong Speu province. At official national ceremonies such as the Water Festival and the King’s birthday, imported fireworks are used.


Mr. Inn’s father learnt the art of Kam Chroch making from his father who learnt at a pagoda. Mr. Inn has himself become experienced. When he was ten he only knew how to make the fireworks fly in one colour. “But now I can make them in three colours such as red, white and light blue,” he says. He further developed his art from fireworks brought over from Thailand and Vietnam. Now he can make all kinds of fireworks from numbers one to six.
 

Mr. Inn adds that because Kam Chroch is now being produced by machine, the technology produces more colours and better pictures. “Some look like the areca flower.” These Kam Chroch can be sold more expensively than the local handmade varieties. “But I never disappoint,” he says.

 

Manufacturing fireworks is far from safe. “They must be made away from flames. The firework components burn easily and it’s dangerous, “he says. Although he has never been to the hospital, Mr. Inn has suffered burns to his hands, legs and hair. Mr. Inn has profited well from his work. Due to his success, he owns a truck, three motorbikes and employs six people.

1- A firework maker repairing gunpowder to make cracker more colourful.
2- Tool and materials for producing firework.
3- & (5) & (7) Slotting the firework into the mold and product. 4- This paper adds color to the firework.
6- Cremation ceremonies can be started by Kam Chroch. Words by Khan Sophirom, Photographs by Heng Chivoan,

Source from The Cambodian Scene, Sept/Oct 2004.

 

 
 
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