Sneakers adorned with images of Angkor Wat and the Cambodian flag were removed yesterday from the website of a US retailer after it became the target this week of government criticism.
A representative for the company, Zazzle, said the decision was made because of the uproar from visitors to zazzle.com and not because of the government’s reaction to the designs.
“The particular shoes in question here were created by a Zazzle seller and, as you know, generated a great deal of attention from visitors who found them offensive or distasteful,” Mike Karns, director of consumer marketing, wrote in an e-mail, referring to a string of comments on the website.
“After becoming aware of these reactions to their products, the seller decided to remove the product[s] from their Zazzle store and to no longer offer it for sale.”
The company, which sells user-designed items, does not have any comment on the shoes or the reaction to them, according to Mr Karns.
He said Zazzle has not, to his knowledge, been contacted by the Cambodian government, and he declined to identify the seller or say how many of the two kinds of shoes have been sold.
When told the shoes were off the website of the online retailer, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said it was a step in the right direction.
“It is the first step,” he said. “The second step means they have to stop producing the shoes with the Cambodian flag, and destroy all the shoes with the flag left.”
Zazzle still offers a range of items showing Cambodia’s national colors, from T-shirts to bumper stickers, to hats and skateboard decks.
“The flag on the T-shirt, the flag on the hat, it’s not so serious,” Mr Kuong said. “The shoes is the lowest half of the human being and it touches everything on the ground. It is the way to look down on anything.”
The company also offers a skateboard deck with an image of the Cambodian flag printed on it. Asked about this, Mr Kuong said, “A skateboard is similar to shoes, because we put feet on it. It’s still not appropriate.”