It would be impossible to shut down a US-based Web site featuring erotic illustrations of half-naked Apsara dancers, two government ministers said Thursday ahead of a request by the Women’s Affairs Ministry to shutter the site.
Sy Define, secretary of state for the Women’s Affairs Ministry, said by telephone that his ministry will send a letter to Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun today calling on him to shut down Reahu.net, which is registered in the US state of Illinois.
“These pictures affect social emotions, especially for Cambodian women, in a negative way,” Sy Define said.
The ministry will also send a letter to the owner of the Web site and ask him why he is depicting Cambodian women in this way, Sy Define said.
Racy images from the site were published in a local paper Wednesday, including one of a topless woman wearing the garb of a Khmer Rouge cadre.
The owner of the Web site, Cambodian-American Rick Lor, defended his art Thursday by e-mail saying that even though he had received many complaints about his site, he did not agree with the criticism. He added that he doesn’t see how “admiration can turn into disgrace” and said that people need to keep an open mind.
“The complaint is that my depiction of Apsaras is too sexy and that it will bring down the Khmer culture. Where have these people been hiding the last thirty or so years?” he wrote.
“If I can tell them, I would say that if you take some paints and go paint the Apsara carvings on the wall of Angkor Wat, you’ll get a similar result as the pictures on my site.”
“I would not take down my Web site due to my belief in the freedom of expression,” he added.
Both So Khun and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said the site could not be shut down or blocked by local servers.
“Since [the Web site] is based abroad we could not shut it down. Had it been in Cambodia it would have been easy,” So Khun said.
The ministry will send a letter to the owner of the Web site and ask him to shut it down voluntarily once they have received the request from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, he added.
Khieu Kanharith, who is also government spokesman, said the site will not be blocked, and the issue was not of political importance.