Cartoon Character Brings Mine Issue to Market

Amid fake Lacoste and Ralph Lauren shirts at Phnom Penh’s Tuol Tumpong Market, a T-shirt de­picting the classic European cartoon character Tintin standing in a minefield and surrounded by skulls has raised eyebrows at the Min­istry of Tourism.

Under text reading: “Tintin in Cambodia’s forest,” Belgian carto­o­n­ist Herge’s three characters Tin­tin, Captain Haddock and Tin­tin’s white dog Snowy are shown staring in surprise at a heap of skulls and bones with a mine warn­ing sign hanging in the background.

Tourism Minister Lay Prohas said Tuesday that the T-shirt was misleading and might give tour­ists the false impression that mines are a safety issue everywhere in Cam­bodia.

“Mines are no danger for tourists in Cambodia,” he said, adding that there were no mines close to popular tourism sites.

“We [will] send our inspectors to the market to speak to the owners and ask them to kindly and voluntarily remove the T-shirt,” he said.

But Handicap International’s Mine Action and Injury Prevention Coordinator Christian Provoost said the T-shirt could help raise aware­ness of land mines.

“It is just an individual initiative to sell some T-shirts and it is absolutely harmless. What is dangerous in this country is land mines,” he ad­ded

Asked about their impression of the T-shirt, tourists at the market, which is also known as the Russian Market, gave different opinions.

British tourist Sheila Austin said the T-shirt was in bad taste.

“Land mines are so important and to make a joke about it is not acceptable,” she said. “I can imaging men with no imagination buying it.”

But American tourist Julia Cato, 24, said she did not find the T-shirt offensive.

“It is trying to present something very serious in a lighthearted way,” she said. “It is not like they are trying to cover up their history.”


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