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India rice firm to stop Angkor Wat labelling: ministry

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Rice exporter Voyage India will stop using the name and image of Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat temple on its products. SUPPLIED

India rice firm to stop Angkor Wat labelling: ministry

Rice exporter Voyage India will stop using the name and image of Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat temple on its products, following numerous complaints from the Kingdom after snapshots of the offending merchandise circulated online, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The company purportedly imports milled rice from Thailand and sells it across India and to African countries under the “Angkor Wat Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice” brand, which features a depiction of the archaeological wonder.

The ministry stressed in a July 12 statement that the company’s use of the temple’s name and image was without authorisation from the competent authorities of Cambodia; runs counter to the Law Concerning Marks, Trade Names and Acts of Unfair Competition; and constitutes a violation of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (PCPIP).

“The Indian company will stop using the name and image of Angkor Wat on its packaging, following complaints raised by the ministry … and the Cambodian embassy in India,” it added.

It said it formally launched a joint investigation in February with the Ministry of Commerce into the images of the company’s packaged rice products stamped with the brand “Angkor Wat Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice” and bearing images of the famed complex.

“Careful research by the two ministries, in close cooperation with the Thai side, has found that the owner of this milled-rice operation is an Indian company apparently called ‘Voyage India’, located in Maharashtra [state] of India,” the foreign ministry added.

Commerce ministry spokesman Seang Thay emphasised that his ministry “always intervenes immediately” to cases of trademark infringement.

“We would like to inform the public that we have taken immediate action to intervene. This is not the first such case that the Ministry of Commerce has encountered – there have been plenty.

“Recently, a Japanese company made shoes with the Cambodian flag and image of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple. We also stepped in on the case – so as long as there are issues related to trademarks, the Ministry of Commerce always writes an intervention letter immediately, never putting it off for long.

“The leaders of the Cambodia Rice Federation [CRF], a union of businesspeople in the Cambodian rice sector, have called for action against companies that plaster the image of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat on packages of rice sold abroad,” he said.

CRF chairman Hun Lak stressed that the move was intended to protect common interests in Cambodia.

“Naturally, any country has intellectual property protections. When there is intent to appropriate something that the world recognises as [unique to that country] for commercial gain, that’s not right.

“Cambodia’s reaction was the right thing to do, to preserve national identity, to deter deceitful actions, and especially to better protect the use of the image of Angkor Wat temple,” he said.

On May 7, the foreign ministry sent letter No 2801, signed by secretary of state Sea Kosal, to Cambodian ambassador to India Panha Pichkhun concerning the matter.

On May 11, the Cambodian embassy in New Delhi wrote a letter to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs noting that Voyage India distributes its “Angkor Wat Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice” across India and ships to European countries.

Angkor Wat is an emblem of national heritage, and unauthorised use of its name and image could easily generate confusion regarding the origin of the product. “Angkor Wat Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice” violates articles 6 and 10 of the PCPIP.

The product was still advertised on Voyage India’s website as of the evening of July 12. The company could not be reached for comment by press time.

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