Government Imposes New Rules for Photos in Angkor Park

Camera-wielding visitors to the iconic temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province will have to take extra care before clicking away now that the government has imposed new rules—effective immediately—for anyone aiming to make money off of their images.

As of December 1, all company representatives and journalists who want to take photographs inside the sprawling park, as well as tourists planning to profit from their photos or videos, must secure advance permission by filling out an application at the headquarters of the Apsara Authority, the government body that manages the World Heritage Site.

Tourists take photographs of Angkor Wat earlier this year. (Reuters)
Tourists take photographs of Angkor Wat earlier this year. (Reuters)

Long Kosal, the authority’s communications director, said on Tuesday that the new rules were explained to Siem Reap-based journalists on Monday.

“The Apsara Authority bans national and international journalists and private companies from taking photos inside the Angkor site because we are upset that they have used their photos for business,” Mr. Kosal said.

“Under the new rules, journalists and companies can apply for permission if they want to take photos inside the Angkor site and we will accompany those people,” he said, explaining that Apsara Authority security guards would oversee the trips.

Mr. Kosal said park staff would also stop people they suspect of taking photos or shooting video for commercial purposes without authorization, then direct them to the authority’s headquarters, where they can apply for permission for free.

He would not say whether the authority had laid out clear criteria to evaluate the applications that it receives, but explained that the rules were meant mainly to prevent images from being used to the detriment of the Angkor park.

“We want to protect the heritage site, because some people have taken pictures and used them for films and books and leaflets that very badly affect the Angkor site,” he said.

Asked for examples, Mr. Kosal said he could not answer the question because his telephone was running out of battery.

Soeung Seth, a reporter for the Rasmei Kampuchea Daily Newspaper, said he was worried that the new rules could cost him valuable time.

“We will spend time getting permission,” he said. “Sometimes we need to take pictures the same day, but it will be impossible because the Apsara Authority office is far away, more than 10 km from the town.”

Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said he was reserving judgment on the new rules until he had a chance to see how they will be enforced.

The government is sensitive to images of and comments about the archaeological park, whose centerpiece, Angkor Wat, enjoys a place of pride on the national flag.

In 2009, political activist Moeung Sonn was found guilty of disinformation for making claims that a planned lighting installation at Angkor Wat would damage the temple. He remained in self-imposed exile to avoid jail until earlier this year, when a royal pardon secured his safe return.

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