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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Uproar over film forces Thai retreat

Uproar over film forces Thai retreat

A Thai movie producer under pressure from cultural historians in Cambodia backed

off his idea to make a movie about the great Angkor warrior King Jayavarman VII.

Now plans for a script are in the hands of the Khmer Writer's Association, which

hopes to get backing from the government.

The 12th Century Angkor king who lived into his 90s is aguably the greatest warrior

in Cambodian history. The greatest military achievement of his reign - perhaps of

the entire history of Cambodia - was the capture and sacking of the capital of its

rich and powerful neighbor, Champa, in 1190.

Kong Kantara, director of arts and movie department at Ministry of Culture and Fine

Arts (MCFA), said that the Khmer Writers Association submitted a proposal seeking

cooperation from his department to make a movie. A movie would cost several million

dollars and they need a movie producer and an historian, he said.

KWA's Deputy President You Bo said his group is talking with film producer Hang Meas.

A Jayavarman movie will be the next priority to be considered after it finishes filming

its current project Luong Preah Sdach Korn (about a 16th century king) in mid 2008,

said You Bo.

The Committee for Preservation of Khmer Civilization (CPKC), which raised a furor

over Thai production plans, is also asking permission from the Ministry of Information

and MCFA to produce a drama, which would be cheaper than a movie.

"The drama will attract movie producers and encourage them to produce such a

film," said Moeung Sonn, a member of CPKC.

Sonn said that CPKC is setting up a fundraising appeal and asking for support from

Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The flap with the Thais came to light when daily paper Rasmei Kampuchea reported

that Thai researchers had come to Cambodia to discuss making a film on Jayavaram

VII, and CPKC feared the Thais would not accurately portray history.

The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh responded with a statement in mid-December saying

the Thai movie company had pulled out.

"This intention remains an idea and if it is to be realized, the Thai side will

support the Cambodian side solely on technical matters," the statement said.

"The story shall be written by the Cambodian side itself. Since this issue became

sensitive the company will stop the proposed idea to make such a film."

Cultral sensitivities among the two countries have flared before. In 2003 an angry

mob torched the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh after a Thai actress allegedly claimed

that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Ros Chantrabot, deputy president of Royal Academy of Cambodia and a Jayavarman VII

researcher, said the Thai producers met him in August to suggest the project but

he opposed it.

"If they film it will cause confusion," said Chantrabot. "But I can't

see one Khmer movie producer interested in filming about him."

A Khmer movie producer, who asked not to be named, told the Post that there are plenty

of documents available about Jayavarman VII, but there isn't enough money to produce

the film.

"It is not easy to produce a film about him. We do not have proper equipment

and lack technical expertise," he said.

Jayavarman VII was believed to have been born between 1120 and 1125. He was the son

of King Dharanindravarman II (r. 1150 -1160) and queen Sri Jayarajacudamani. He married

a very religious and strong-minded princess, Jayarajadevi.

Jayavarman VII succeeded during his lifetime in creating a legacy that few monarchs

in Khmer history have equalled. During his reign, the Khmer Empire of Angkor expanded

to its greatest territorial extent and engaged in a building program that yielded

temples, highways, rest houses and hospitals.

Jayavarman VII was in his 90s when he died in approximately 1215.

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