The National Assembly began debating trademark legislation Wednesday, passing part of the 71-article law that allows the government to ban advertisements “harmful to the public order, morality and tradition” of predominantly Buddhist Cambodia.
That sparked a vigorous debate, with lawmakers asking why Angkor Beer is allowed to put a drawing of the country’s most famous temple on its labels.
“It is not right that we let our Angkor Wat be used for beer,” said Nan Sy, a Funcinpec legislator. He also said the government should ban an “offensive” ad for a Sihanoukville casino that has gone up along Route 4.
“The government should pull that ad down because it is an eyesore to people and to tourists,” Nan Sy said. “It shows we are promoting casino gambling.”
He said that sends a bad message to children.
Instead, Nan Sy said, the government should promote or advertise the products from Sihanoukville.
“We have delicious fish and lobster and other seafood,” Nan Sy said.
Government officials did not respond to his remarks about the ad, but flatly refused to change the name of Angkor Beer.
Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Angkor Beer is a national institution, exported to the US, Japan and Europe. The name dates back to the 1960s, when Cambodia also marketed Bayon Beer, he said.
He noted that other countries use symbols of their cultural heritage in advertising, such as the United Kingdom’s practice of noting which institutions or products are endorsed by royals.
The underlying legislation marks an effort to control the kind of unfair market practices in Cambodia that must end if Cambodia is to join the World Trade Organization.
Sok Siphana, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said the WTO rules allow countries to decide what types of ads they will tolerate and what is not acceptable. For example, he said, the US allows underwear ads, but Cambodia doesn’t have to allow them.