Grab a slice of birthday cake and prepare the fireworks, because it’s time to celebrate. This year, 2024, is the 30th anniversary of Phare Ponleu Selpak! 

The idea for Phare began in 1986 when French humanitarian Véronique Decrop worked as a drawing teacher in the Site 2 Refugee Camp in Thailand. Her young students learned how to use the arts as a tool for healing their traumas of the Khmer Rouge regime and the resulting Civil War.  

Véronique Decrop teaching drawing in the Site 2 refugee camp in Thailand in 1986
After the end of the war, Véronique and nine of her young students wanted to continue using the arts as a tool for healing and social development for the most vulnerable of children. In 1994, they began work on a community arts center just outside Battambang, Cambodia and within a year, Phare Ponleu Selpak had opened its doors to its first batch of students from the nearby resettlement camp. 
Learn how Phare Ponleu Selpak will celebrate its 30th anniversary through 2024 in Battambang and beyond
An early circus show at Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, Cambodia
At the time, Phare’s founders never would have imagined that Phare would become the vocational and professional art school, community center, kindergarten, social enterprise, leisure classes, education center, tourist attraction, and arts and cultural hub that it is today. 

Now, three decades later, Phare is having more impact on Battambang, Cambodia, and the world than ever before. We never would have accomplished so much without the help of so many volunteers, partners, neighbors, organizations, donors, and businesses over the past 30 years – THANK YOU! 

With that gratitude in mind, Phare will commemorate our 30th anniversary with a year-long series of celebrations, galas, art festivals, and more. We want to spend 2024 celebrating the past 30 years – while also looking forward to what the next 30 years have in store.  

So, what’s planned for the year ahead? Let’s dive in. 

First, Our Big Goal for 2024 

To help launch Phare Ponleu into 30 more years of success, we’ve set the ambitious target to raise $900,000 USD during 2024 ($30,000 x 30 years). I believe that if all of us in the Phare community pull together, this goal is not only achievable – but it can be vastly exceeded. 

This includes $300,000 to support our annual operating costs and a $600,000 capital campaign to fund a new Campus Commons which will include a library, canteen, collaborative spaces, arts café, exhibition gallery, and shared workspaces.  


A rendering of the Campus Commons building at Phare Ponleu Selpak

So far (as of May 23), we’ve raised $80,000 – or 9% – toward this goal. 

Make a recurring or one-time contribution via our Donate page here if you’d like to help us continue changing lives through the arts over the next 30 years. 

Now, back to our plans for the year ahead. 


January: The Sangker River Run 

Learn how to get involved in the Sangker River Run – as a runner, cyclist, volunteer, or sponsor

Graphic credit: Juliette DELORON

On Saturday 20 January 2024, Phare Ponleu Selpak hosted the inaugural Sangker River Run, welcoming 140 runners and cyclists from (at least) 14 different countries to Battambang Province.  

The 30-kilometer run/cycle event included a solo run, a solo cycle, and a relay run of 10 km each. The route began at the foot of Phnom Banan, home to an 11th-century Angkorian temple, and continued along the scenic Sangker River through the heart of Battambang, ending at the Phare Ponleu Selpak campus. 

Hiroshi Ake of Japan in 1st place, followed by Tang Seksang of Cambodia in 2nd place during the Sangker River Run in Battambang, Cambodia

Photo credits: PHON Kaevkynaga

Three cyclists participating in the Sangker River Run in Battambang, Cambodia

Click here to see all of the official race photos from the Sangker River Run! 

Given the success of the inaugural event, Phare Ponleu Selpak and Battambang Provincial Hall have decided to make it an annual charity event, rebranded as the Sangker River Marathon. We can’t wait to see you again next year! 

March: A Weekend of Festivities in Phnom Penh 

For those in or near Phnom Penh, you are cordially invited to join us for Phare Ponleu Selpak’s 30th anniversary celebrations from 1-3 March 2024. 

In addition to our annual charity gala – graciously hosted by Rosewood Phnom Penh – we are proud to co-produce and co-present two new contemporary dance and theatre performances in collaboration with world-renowned performing artists. 

Celebrating 30 Years of Phare Ponleu Selpak: A Weekend of Festivities in Phnom Penh
Whether you plan to attend all three events or just one, we’re looking forward to sharing these brand-new dance and theatre performances with you in commemorating 30 years of changing lives through the arts. 


1 & 2 March, Madison Now 

Join us for this contemporary dance performance on Friday and Saturday evening, directed by Michael Laub, choreographed by Michael Laub & Khen Vanthy, and co-produced with the Institut français 
The Madison Now dance choreographed by Michael Laub & Khen Vanthy in Phnom Penh

Photo credit: Oyen Rodriguez

The performance of Madison Now will be accompanied by an original contemporary soundtrack by Cambodia-based British musician/producer Mute Speaker. 

Book tickets and get more information about the Madison Now here. 


2 March, 30th Anniversary Charity Gala 

Come celebrate 30 years of Phare Ponleu Selpak at this cocktail reception followed by a four-course dinner hosted by Rosewood Phnom Penh.  

Art auction at the Rosewood Phnom Penh for Phare Ponleu Selpak
The fundraising gala for Phare Ponleu Selpak at Rosewood Phnom Penh
This exclusive gala features live painting by Phare co-founder TOR Vutha as well as circus and theatre performances by Phare students. In addition, there will be auctions for art, luxury stays, local gin, and bespoke fashion by two Phare graduates and distinguished Phnom Penh fashion houses – Ambre and A.N.D. The closing concert of the evening will feature Vanthan and Tengrith, two of our music school graduates who have reached fame in in the Cambodian music scene.  

Reserve your tickets and get more information about the 30th Anniversary Charity Gala here. 



END OF LOVE (CABARET) is the first collaboration between Phare Ponleu Selpak and The Acting Academy Phnom Penh. This contemporary cabaret theatre performance is based on the works of Angelica Liddell, Joël Pommerat, Pasolini, Hanokh Levin, Larry Tremblay, Sinn Sisamouth & Ros Sereysothea, and directed by KB Saadi.  
END OF LOVE (CABARET) theatre performance at Bar Menaka in Phnom Penh

At Bar Menaka, the audience will attend an hour-long prologue of the full-length performance, the final version of which will be presented during the 12th edition of the Tini Tinou International Circus Festival in Battambang in November 2024. (Read more about Tini Tinou below!) This might be the first cabaret-style dinning theatre presented in Cambodia, pushing the boundaries for new ways of enjoying arts and culture, in a country that still has a long way to go in building a sustainable audience for performing arts.  

Reserve your tickets and get more information about THE END OF LOVE (CABARET) here. 

November: Tini Tinou International Circus Festival 

This year, Phare Ponleu Selpak will host the 12th edition of the Tini Tinou International Circus Festival in Battambang from 22-27 November 2024. Prepare yourselves: We plan to make this the biggest, boldest, and brightest edition of Tini Tinou yet!  

Discover what's in store at Tini Tinou International Circus Festival from 22nd to 27th November 2024 in Cambodia
The name “Tini Tinou” means “here and there” in Khmer – perfect for the magic of a circus show! The first edition of the festival took place in Phnom Penh in 2004 and was organized by both Phare Ponleu Selpak and the Institut français du Cambodge. Past editions of Tini Tinou have included circus troupes from all around the world: France, India, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and more! 
A preview of Tini Tinou International Circus Festival 2024 in Battambang, Cambodia
Tini Tinou Circus Festival in Battambang, Cambodia
Tini Tinou circus parade in downtown Battambang, Cambodia coming in 2024

Photo credits: Steffano Morrone

A special circus show performance at Tini Tinou International Circus Festival
This year, we’re planning to have more circus troupes from more countries than ever before. (Catch this sneak peak of our international collaboration with a South Korean circus troupe that will be unveiled at this year’s Tini Tinou festival.) Also at the festival will be the full-length premiere of END OF LOVE (CABARET) that was previewed in Phnom Penh in February. This contemporary theatre-circus hybrid will be a show you don’t want to miss!  
The Tini Tinou International Circus Festival Parade 2024 in Battambang, Cambodia
A circus show performance in Battambang, Cambodia
A performance at Tini Tinou Circus Festival
Circus parade in Battambang in 2024

Photo credits: Steffano Morrone

The Cirus Parade through the historic town of Battambang is not to be missed. Participants will be treated to a spectacle extraordinaire with artist Oliver Zimmerman traversing the Sangker River on a wire rope. We’re also throwing a 30-Year Birthday Bash party complete with food and drink for everyone in the local community and with Phare friends and family from all around the world. If you’re in the neighborhood, come join us!  

Sign up for our newsletter for further updates, and stay tuned for more announcements coming soon. 

Late November: Rock ‘n Cirque Celebration at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh

Ending the year with a bang will be a very special event organized by the French Embassy – Ambassade de France – in Phnom Penh on 30th November 2024. 

The French ambassador, His Excellency Jacques Pellet, and French Minister of Culture, Madame Rachida Dati, will host Rock ‘n Cirque, a 30th anniversary celebration for Phare Ponleu Selpak, on the embassy grounds. Cambodian dignitaries and other government officials will also be in attendance. 

The French embassy, AFD, and Phare Ponleu Selpak celebrating the 30th anniversary
A circus performance for the French embassy celebrating the 30th anniversary of Phare Ponleu Selpak

Rock ‘n Cirque will also commemorate and acknowledge the many connections between Phare Ponleu Selpak and France, including the pioneering work of Véronique Decrop, the fundraising efforts of Phare Ponleu Selpak France association, the long-term partnership on projects with AFD – Agence Française de Développement – and the hundreds of other donations, contributions, partnerships, and volunteer service from French organizations and the people of France. 

All in all, the soiree will be a fitting end to a year full of art festivals and celebrations and will include art displays, live music, circus performances, and of course, plenty of food for everyone.  

Invitations and more details will be sent out soon. 

Come Join the Party!  

We hope you’ll join us for one of the many exciting events happening this year as we celebrate all of the many accomplishments of the Phare Ponleu Selpak community and network over the past 30 years. There’s a lot to celebrate! 

We also hope that you’ll join us in launching Phare Ponleu Selpak into the next 30 years as we strive towards our year-long $900,000 fundraising goal. Contribute today if you’d like to be a part of changing lives through the arts. 


There’s always a lot going on at Phare Ponleu Selpak: Sign up for our (mostly) monthly newsletter and stay up to date with everything happening during our special anniversary year! 


Osman Khawaja, Executive Director of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, Cambodia
Osman Khawaja is the Executive Director at Phare Ponleu Selpak. He is passionate about empowering individuals through education and fostering creativity within our community. Enabling the untapped potential of people and organizations is what drives him. Baking and building Lego models are his outlets to satiate his need for perfection and sweet cravings.