Cambodia’s outspoken envoy to the United Kingdom has threatened legal action against a United States-based company for displaying the Kingdom’s Royal coat of arms on sneakers available for sale online.
Hor Nambora, the son of Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to US retailer Zazzle that the shoes in question displayed an “offensive misuse of the Cambodian coat of arms”.
“On the Zazzle website, you are currently offering your customers this revered emblem as one of the designs they can choose to appear on a pair of Pro-Keds Hi-Top shoes,” the ambassador wrote to Michael Karns, Zazzle’s director of consumer marketing.
“This is completely unacceptable.”
Hor Nambora called on Karns and Zazzle to immediately pull the offending Keds from their inventory and cancel any pending shipments to customers.
“Cambodian law prohibits the unauthorised use of the Cambodian flag and Cambodian coat of arms for business purposes and any further infringement could see your company subjected to public prosecution,” he wrote.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni, called the imbroglio “a flagrant example of the cultural gap between Western countries and other countries in the world”.
“I do not believe a lawsuit would help. I rather think that it would be better to find a way for the Western people to get to know and understand our culture and traditions and respect them,” he said in an email. “I believe that the Western disrespect for others’ culture, tradition, religion and identity have driven the world to many conflicts, including the Islamic jihad.”
In response to queries at the time, a member of the Zazzle support team who identified herself only as “Selena” wrote in an email that the company was not responsible for the designs submitted by its users.
“While we understand and appreciate that our customers have a diverse set of views and convictions, Zazzle is set up to be an entirely free market enterprise. We simply provide a digital forum [where] artists and contributors can post products of all sorts,” Selena said.
“We heartily invite you to use the Zazzle website to design a product of your own that expresses your own opinions and ideals.”