A Web site featuring illustrations of half-naked Khmer women dressed in the traditional clothing of Apsara dancers was lambasted by both the current and former heads of the Women’s Affairs Ministry on Wednesday after racy pictures from the site were featured on the front page of a leading Khmer-language newspaper.
Two of the bare-breasted illustrations—one of two Apsara dancers in an intimate embrace and another of a women in the clothing of a Khmer Rouge cadre—were printed in Rasmei Kampuchea Daily Newspaper on Wednesday.
Reahu.net, a Web site registered in the US state of Illinois under the name of Rick Lor, also contains illustrations of voluptuous Khmer women posing in front of various traditional Cambodian backdrops, including Angkor Wat.
Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said Wednesday that she found the illustration of the topless woman in Khmer Rouge garb most offensive.
“That did not happen during the Khmer Rouge and should not be painted like that,” the minister said by telephone.
“We are trying to promote the image of Cambodian women, both in Cambodia and in the world, but what does [Rick Lor] want when he paints them nude?” she asked.
Former minister of Women’s Affairs, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, said the erotic pictures projected a negative image of Cambodian women, and that Rasmei Kampuchea should not have reproduced them.
“The picture printed on the front page will impact our culture and it will lead to more rape cases in Cambodia,” Mu Sochua said.
Visitors to the Web site have written comments in the margins of the illustrations, including one that suggested the images be printed on T-shirts, mugs and mouse pads, which could then be sold to raise money for charities in Cambodia.
The pictures of the Apsara dancers should not be called art, Eang Sithol, president of the Khmer Artist Association, said Wednesday.
“I reject this painting because it has a strong [negative] effect on Khmer culture, and I am sad that they have made this painting,” he said.
Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said the images were only available on the Internet and, therefore, their impact would be minimal.
“It is posted on an overseas Web site and not in Cambodia,” he said.
Rick Lor could not be reached for comment Thursday.