Racy photos depicting a topless Apsara dancer reclining amid Angkorian ruins have incensed the government agency responsible for Angkor Park.
Shortly after the photos hit Facebook on Saturday, the Apsara Authority launched an investigation, and yesterday released a statement condemning the images as a tasteless affront to Khmer culture.
“Angkor is a religious, sacred site for Cambodian people. This kind of behaviour is very insulting not just to our religion but also to Khmer identity,” said Kerya Chau Sun, the spokesperson for Apsara Authority.
The controversial photos bear a watermark for “WANIMAL,” which Apsara Authority officials said they believe to be a Chinese company.
An account for Wanimal on the Chinese photo-sharing site Lofter features a series of images of naked or partially clothed women in exotic backgrounds. The account administrators did not immediately return request for comment yesterday.
The portraits of the topless woman in Apsara dancer garb were likely snapped during a quiet moment at the Banteay Kdei temple, said Khieu Thy, president of the Angkor Tourist Guide Association.
“The pictures are really photos [at the location], not edited by Photoshop,” said Thy, who compared the images to pornography.
Like many Cambodian temples, Banteay Kdei contains numerous carvings and reliefs of bare-breasted women skirting between the realms of heaven and Earth. But Chau Sun at the Apsara Authority said there is “no possible comparison” between the stone antiquities and the modern-day interpretation.
“When you insult someone’s culture, it’s not art at all,” she said.
The Apsara Authority said it plans to submit a complaint after gathering more information about the pictures. Yesterday the agency was unable to identify the photographer or determine whether the half-nude woman depicted was Cambodian, however.
Officials at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said the investigation is up to the authority, while the Ministry of Information could not be reached yesterday about whether the photos could be considered illegal.
The government has previously taken issue with similar images. In 2009, it blocked an artist’s website when photos and paintings of scantily clad Apsara dancers offended the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.