The Apsara Authority said yesterday that it is ramping up security and increasing printed warnings against desecrating temple ruins at the Angkor Archaeological Park after a second group of tourists – this time, two American women – were deported in less than two weeks for snapping partially nude photos at one of the historical sites.
Sisters Lindsey Kate Adams, 22, and Leslie Jan Adams, 20, were charged by the Siem Reap Court for trafficking pornography and exposing sexual body parts after they were caught on Friday morning with their pants down at the remote Preah Khan temple, according to a statement released by Apsara, which manages the temples. Photos of the incident circulated on social media.
Both received six-month suspended prison sentences, were fined 1 million riel ($250) and were banned from entering Cambodia for four years after Siem Reap provincial judge Kuy Soa handed down the verdict on Saturday. They were immediately deported after the hearing and sent by bus to Bangkok.
The incident comes on the heels of two photo scandals at the World Heritage Site, both of which have brought swift reactions from authorities. Three French nationals were deported after taking naked photographs on February 1, while on January 24, racy photos of a topless traditional dancer reclining on Angkorian ruins – the veracity of which are currently being investigated – surfaced on social media.
“Incidents like this have happened before but we stopped it in time and it’s very rare,” Apsara Authority spokeswoman Kerya Chau Sun said. “This is the first time we’ve had to deal with several situations like this in such a short time. I don’t understand what would drive people to do this.”
According to Chau Sun, Apsara has begun crafting flyers and signs cautioning tourists against acts that will desecrate the temple complex, the world’s largest religious monument.
Originally, the organisation was only planning to print a couple of warnings, worried that they would “destroy the beauty of the site”, but the magnitude of the situation, she said, has pushed them to dispatch more flyers around the archaeological park.
Apsara also plans to further beef up its security – especially in more secluded zones – from the current 1,000 guards patrolling the 40,000 hectare site.
“We have already increased security but it looks like we need to amplify it more when it seems that some people don’t care about how they offend Cambodian culture,” Chau Sun said.
UNESCO cultural specialist Philippe Delanghe decried the women’s actions, calling them “appalling”.
“Angkor is still very much a sacred site and people go there to pray every day and this is something that should never occur,” Delanghe said. “I think for the future Apsara and the government will consider different and more severe measures like maybe increasing sentences.”
The motivation behind the sudden upsurge in nude photo shoots at the temple ruins, however, remains a mystery.
“It is indeed very strange but we definitely don’t think it has anything to do with security because the fact that these girls were caught immediately is a sign that Apsara is doing its job,” Delanghe said.
“Frankly, we don’t understand why they’re doing this,” Chau Sun added. “Maybe the girls copied the others, but whatever it is, it’s disrespectful.”
Similar incidents, Delanghe confirmed, have happened in other World Heritage Sites across the globe, and UNESCO is advising Apsara on further steps to take to remedy the situation.
The Angkor Complex remains the crowning jewel of the Kingdom’s tourism industry. Last year, it brought in $59.3 million in revenue after more than 2 million foreigners visited the site.
“With more people visiting the site, taking a photo like this is very hurtful to Khmer culture and will set a bad example,” said Siem Reap tour guide Khieu Thy.
Contact information for the two American women was not immediately available.