US Ambassador Charles Ray apologized to the Minister of Cult and Religious Affairs on Tuesday for a Hollywood film advertisement that has enraged Buddhists around the world, officials said.
In a meeting with Minister Khun Haing on Tuesday morning, the two discussed the film “Hollywood Buddha,” which has promoted itself with movie posters depicting a man seated on the head of a Buddha statue.
“The ambassador personally apologized for the actions of the [film] company,” embassy spokesman David Gainer said.
He added: “This is a private company. The US government plays no role in the production of the film.”
Buddhist communities from Thailand to the US have held public demonstrations against the advertisement, prompting Philippe Caland, the film’s director and star, to issue an apology and pull the posters.
Monks here in Cambodia protested by boycotting their studies earlier this month. After the meeting Tuesday, Khun Haing said he will urge monks to stop their strike and return to school, since the offending promotional images have been scrapped.
He said he has received numerous complaints about the poster from Buddhist leaders, the general public and several organizations, including a letter from the Buddhist Association of Cambodia, which he presented to Ray.
In the letter, the association’s director Chan Ven urged the US government to take action against the filmmaker and “to destroy the movie and force the actor who sat on the Buddha’s head to publicly apologize to Buddhists around the world.”
“We would like to strongly condemn the insulting act from the Hollywood company,” he wrote. Chan Ven warned the US to take measures against future “insulting acts” to avoid “religious war.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Chief Monk Non Nget said that most monks have returned to school, but urged a ban on the film.