Nationalistic grievances toward Thailand over Angkor Wat threatened to reignite this week as Khmer-language newspaper Kampuchea Thmei published articles saying a Thai company distributed printed materials with the image of Angkor Wat.
But the AT Motor Co Ltd of Thailand, which produced and distributed the promotional material at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Oct 20 and Oct 21 in Bangkok, did not claim Angkor Wat was the property of Thailand, a Cambodian government official said Wednesday.
“The company simply wanted to encourage people to visit Angkor Wat after their trip to Thailand,” CPP Ministry of Information Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith said.
Kampuchea Thmei (New Cambodia) titled its Wednesday headline “Cambodian Officials React to Copy of Angkor Wat, ‘Temple of Thailand.’”
Khieu Kanharith said nowhere in the promotional material did the Thai company say such a thing. “I think there is a lack of professionalism in the Khmer press for printing this story as though the materials claimed Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.”
“Cambodians are very sensitive and a little bit xenophobic on the topic of Angkor Wat,” he added.
In January, newspapers Rasmei Angkor (Light of Angkor) and later Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace) published unfounded reports that Thai actress Suvanant Kongying had said Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. The rumors, which the editor of Rasmei Angkor later said had not been substantiated, were cited as a factor in the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots.
Khieu Kanharith said some editors think being nationalistic “is the best way to gain readership.”
Funcinpec Minister of Information Lu Laysreng said he did not think the ad was a deliberate insult to Cambodia. “It is good to display Angkor Wat to the world. But it’s bad for anyone to use our national symbol for any business purpose that they wish,” he said.
CPP Ministry of Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon said Thai and Cambodian tourism officials often strike agreements whenever there is a joint promotion of the two countries for tourism purposes,
“If they mentioned on the material that Angkor Wat is in Cambodia when they used the symbol of Angkor Wat, then that is not a problem,” Thong Khon said. “But if they did not write that Angkor Wat is in Cambodia, then we must notify the tourism department in Thailand.”
A Ministry of Commerce official said the company did not ask permission to print the image of Angkor Wat. “If they use Angkor Wat as a symbol to sell their own merchandise, then they must request the permission of the Cambodian government, in accordance with the trademark law,” the official said.
(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)