Group behind banned festival tries soft touch

Group behind banned festival tries soft touch

After music festival kaZantip was banned on Monday by Cambodian officials, organisers say they are mounting a campaign to change hearts and minds.

Artem Kharchenko, “prime minister” of kaZantip, a self-described “independent republic”, which plans to settle on Koh Puos off the coast of Sihanoukville from February 18 to 28, said the Cambodian authorities’ reaction was due to a grave misunderstanding.

Officials revoked kaZantip’s permission after they spotted activities on its website which violated “Cambodian tradition, culture, and dignity”, read a Monday letter from Preah Sihanouk Provincial Governor Chhit Sokhon.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon slammed the festival for promoting “indecency” and “naked dance”.

But Kharchenko said the lewd photos seen by officials were on an unsanctioned website, and that the festival, usually known for its raucous atmosphere, was really about ecotourism, sports, art and music.

He added that it would only have 1,000 to 1,500 guests, rather than the usual tens of thousands.

Kharchenko said the festival team would be sending “presentations” to all interested Cambodian officials to demonstrate how “we really love Cambodia and its culture and we want our visitors to love Cambodia, too”.

But Nou Sophal, director of the Sihanoukville Tourism Department, was not convinced.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

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