Cambodian Flag On Shoe Spark Outrage From Government

A shoe with a Cambodian flag printed on it came under criticism yesterday, with one official saying the government may conduct an investigation into the footwear.

“The Cambodian flag should not be put on the shoe like this,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday, adding that he had learned of the sneaker, sold by a US-based company, from local media. “I think on the T-shirt is not so serious, but on the shoe is unacceptable,” he said.

Mr Kuong said he informed the Ministry of Commerce of the offending sneaker design yesterday.

“I just let them know, and they may conduct an investigation into this,” Mr Kuong said. Officials with the Ministry of Commerce could not be reached for comment.

The California-based company that makes the soft-sole shoe, Zazzle, did not respond to an e-mail sent yesterday requesting comment.

Their website, www.zazzle.com, sells customized footwear, and Cambodia’s flag is one of many available on a canvas Keds sneaker-their range also includes the national colors of Vietnam, Laos or Thailand.

The entire Cambodian range of goods, which also includes the Cambodian flag on a skateboard and another shoe with the image of Angkor Wat, was designed, according to the website, by a 21-year-old woman from Redding, California identified as Rebecca.

“I asked my colleague to check the website and the flags from many countries are on the shoes,” acknowledged Mr Kuong. “We don’t care about the others. We just see ourselves.”

Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state with the Ministry of Culture, said he sent messages on the shoes to a handful of government bodies after learning of the flag-adorned footwear yesterday. He is awaiting a reply, he added.

“The company violates the nation,” Mr Phoeurn said. “The company violates the identity of the Khmer people.”

The sneaker has been listed on the company’s website since late September without any reaction, but within a 20-hour period beginning Monday, 45 comments were posted, nearly all of them negative. One read: “This is unacceptable for Cambodia. Angkor Wat is our national symbol. Angkor Wat and Cambodia Flag always stay in our heart and brain. Stop doing this or the virtue of Angkor Wat will harm you.”

The uproar over the shoe is not the first of its kind. In January of 2008 the government vowed to investigate the production of flip-flops bearing images of Angkor Wat that were found on sale at a market in Vietnam’s Tay Ninh province.

Mr Kuong said yesterday that he did not remember the status of that investigation.

 

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