Government Seizes Country’s First Pornographic Magazine

Cambodia’s first pornographic magazine was yanked from store shelves on Friday by military police after government officials declared it an indecent publication.

Angkor Thom Sophakmogkol (Big Angkor Happiness), featuring pictures of nude and semi-nude women alongside graphic articles about sex, first appeared at newsstands and stores in January.

Cambodia has no pornography law. But according to press laws, it is illegal to publish sexually explicit pictures or articles, said Minister of Information Lu Laysreng.

“I know it is contradictory to the press law passed by the National Assembly, but it sells well,” said Chhuon Chhoen, the editor of Angkor Thom Sophakmogkol.

Sales of the Khmer-language monthly were reportedly brisk with nearly 8,000 copies purchased a month, at 2,500 riel each, Chhuon Chhoen said.

The back of the most recent issue featured a full-color reproduction of the cover of a foreign pornographic magazine called Girls of the Orient. Next to the photo of a scantily-clad woman, a headline said, “Carnal Cambodia: They Make Love Now, Not War!”

Most of the articles in Angkor Thom were translated from Thai publications.

“The magazine can educate people about sex to gain happiness in their lives,” said Chhuon Chhoen. “Some people think it devalues Khmer culture but some people who have sex problems want [the magazine] for a solution.”

Though magazines were removed from stores and newsstands, the publishing equipment was not seized. Lu Laysreng said the magazine will not be allowed to publish again if the subject matter remains pornographic.

The company already publishes one magazine, Angkor Thom, which includes articles on politics, culture and society.

Chhuon Chhoen said he had originally wanted to call the new magazine Life and Sex, but the Ministry of Information said “sex” could not be in the name.

Lu Laysreng, the minister of information, remembered it differently. When the magazine editors applied for a license from the Ministry of Information, they did not say the publication would be about sex, he said.

After the first issue of Angkor Thom Sophakmogkol was published in January, Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, complained to Seng Sitheang, director general of the magazine.

Seng Sitheang agreed to tone down the publication’s content,

Khieu Kanharith said. He added he did not see the second, third or fourth issues of the magazine, but assumed Seng Sitheang was abiding by the agreement.

“He promised to stop writing about sex,” Khieu Kanharith. “But he broke the promise.”

Seng Sitheang could not be reached for comment.

Khieu Kanharith said the government had no choice but to shut the magazine down. “If the Ministry of Information does not close it down, people will criticize the ministry for being an accomplice to the magazine,” he said.

“If it educated people about sex, it is not so bad,” Khieu Kanharith said. “But it does not educate. It is just about sex.”

Last week’s seizure is the government’s latest action in a months-long effort to rid Cambodian society of influences that “devalue Khmer culture.”

Last year, the government arrested and deported an American man who used internet cafes in Phnom Penh to run a pornographic website called Rape Camp.

And earlier this year the Ministry of Information banned radio stations from playing several songs deemed “degrading to women.” The government last week said it would begin licensing karaoke bars, some of which double as brothels.



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