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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nude photos draw Apsara Authority's ire

A topless woman poses for a photo at the temple of Banteay Kdei
A topless woman poses for a photo at the temple of Banteay Kdei in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap. WANIMAL

Nude photos draw Apsara Authority's ire

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.



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Dan Poynton 1's picture

What ridiculous Victorian hypocrisy from the Apsara Authority.

Doesn't this smell horribly like the recent reaction of the hard-line Muslims to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons?

Since when have bare female breasts been "an insult to Khmer culture"? As pointed out in the article, they are perhaps the most salient feature of the iconography of Angkor.

And the photo included here looks like a reasonably viable depiction of what life was really like in 13th century Angkor according to the famous account of Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan, which it seems the Apsara Authority has never bothered to read.

Are the Chinese once again "telling it how it really is" here in our wonderful Cambodia?

Lausti's picture

So according to Dan it would be fine to go inside a church to film soft porn at the altar because the ancient ancestors of christians used to go around naked anyway. What an incredibly silly argument you have and shows that you have probably never left your country and possibly mom's basement. As a person who travels constantly in Asia and photographs in sacred places I can only say that your ignorance is astounding. For example though here in India in ancient Indian temples there are naked females and even sex acts depicted in some places, it does not mean I can just throw of my clothes at any chosen moment. Think before you write :o's picture

For a foreigner it maybe natural as in the carving and pictures on the temple wall and old drawings to have topless women. Asian women together with their roman counterpart in ancient time are known to be naturally topless before civilisation thrive.'s picture

Local culture is a rule applied everywhere. Topless can be allowed at beaches and bars, but I doubt in the temple where respected by locals. So show your respects to the rule, the drama won't be happened.

sammao's picture

Maybe you should go back and read how sacred Angkor Wat is. There is no place in Angkor Wat for you to take nude photographs so you can attempt to depict what was like at that time period to modern people who don't know a thing about Angkor Wat. There are children, tourists, and monks who still worship that temples.

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