T-shirts bearing the likeness of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden are being sold in the Poipet market, but not everyone in Poipet understands their significance.
In fact, many people are unaware the T-shirts may be offensive, because they are unclear about who bin Laden is.
“I bought one and sometimes I wear it,” said Lorn An, a salesman in the Poipet market. “I buy about any T-shirt that comes out and is sold in the market. I just bought it because it was a new model and I want to be handsome, but it does not mean I support him.”
Many of the T-shirts are purchased in the Thai market just across the border from Poipet.
“The younger people in Poipet do not think of politics, and they do not know why they wear [the T-shirt],” Chhoeun Vanna, a seller in the Thai market, said.
“They just buy them to wear the new styles. They will buy anything that is new and modern and strange,” Chhoeun Vanna said.
But not everyone is as ambivalent about the T-shirts.
Tep Phalla, who works in a Poipet casino, said he was offended. “I won’t buy the bin Laden T-shirt because he is a terrorist leader and he destroys people’s lives and businesses,” he said.
The US has identified bin Laden as the prime suspect behind the Sept 11 terrorist attacks.
Another man who works in the market and asked not to be named said he bought the bin Laden T-shirt “to remember that he is a cruel killer. I want to inspect his cruelty and why he became so infamous.”
The T-shirts apparently have not made it to the markets in Phnom Penh. However, one businessman said he will bring them to Phnom Penh by the end of this week.
This does not make Tep Phalla happy.
“I will not wear the T-shirt,” he repeated. “I only wear T-shirts with the picture of men who are respected. If I wear it, it means I respect him and support his activity.”