A photo contest celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia kicked off at Factory Phnom Penh on Wednesday under the theme 70 Years of Friendship in My Eyes.
The exhibition is part of the year-long festivities planned to celebrate the strong relationship between the two countries.
Thais and Cambodians were invited to submit photos depicting cordial relations between the two countries, ranging from neighbourliness, cooperation, and cultural similarities to people-to-people exchanges.
Winners were announced in May and 20 photos were chosen from several photographers for the exhibit.
Ambassador of Thailand to Cambodia Panyarak Poolthup says: “Cambodia is a vital neighbour to Thailand and has many shared interests with our country.
“Bilateral relations between the two countries are currently excellent. The border between the two countries, which stretch over 800km, is peaceful and prosperous as trade continues to increase despite restrictions from Covid-19.
“Development assistance, agricultural and public health cooperation have also led to the betterment of lives in both countries.”
The Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh says diplomatic relations between the two countries started in 1950, making it one of Cambodia’s oldest relationships.
Panyarak says the first event honouring the diplomatic relationship was a jazz concert in February which was attended by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni.
There will be another two events in October and December, he says, while one prior event was cancelled due to Covid-19.
“The only activity that we had to cancel was the Thai Film Festival because we could not bring Thai actors and actresses to Cambodia. The event should have been celebrated in July but we had to cancel due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says.
Vuth Chantrea, 27, spent four and a half years studying hotel management in Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima province.
As she peruses the exhibit, Chantrea says: “We are really similar in many ways including lifestyle, culture and belief in religion. We have a good relationship as well. In fact, Thailand offers scholarships to more than a hundred places every year.
“Before I travelled for my scholarship there, I studied the Thai language for three months and it took me another six months to learn how to speak, write and answer questions during examinations. Our languages are similar.”
Miguel Jeronimo, a Portuguese photographer who often exhibits his work about the environment, is one of the event’s organisers.
Jeronimo tells The Post: “I’m helping to organise an exhibition marking the 70 years of friendship between Cambodia and Thailand with photos taken by youths from both countries to celebrate our similarities.”
Jeronimo recently showcased his Jungle on My Mind photo project chronicling the lives of forest rangers working to protect the jungles of Koh Kong province.
The Thai embassy said photos were judged on their message, originality and creativity as well as artistic merit by a panel of judges, including representatives from the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh and artistic experts from Thai and Cambodian institutions.
“This photo contest has created awareness of the tremendous relations between our two countries at the people-to-people level, says Panyarak.
Submissions from citizens of both countries have creatively interpreted the friendship between Thailand and Cambodia, be it mutual cooperation, similarities in culture, and exchanges of goods and people.”
Vithitphol Sriwaraluck, an art director at TV5 who has lived in Cambodia for more than five years, won first prize. His photo depicted two Kun Khmer (Khmer kickboxing) fighters – a Thai and a Khmer – bowing to each other in the ring as a show of respect. The photo is titled Humble.
Second place went to Prasongjit Butrsalee, who submitted his Smile from a host photo showing a man on a motorbike with a trailer smile to a bicycle racer who was wearing a T-shirt with both the Cambodian and Thai national flags.
Cross border trade by Werapan Chaikere took third place and depicted a giant cart overflowing with goods to be delivered across the border.
The two honourable mentions were a picture of a mahout (elephant trainer) standing between two elephants and a picture of a joint national concert which took place in Cambodia.
Vithitphol won $1,000 for first place, Butrsalee won $500 and Werapan took home $250.
The two photographers with honourable mentions received a gift and a certificate of achievement from the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Panyarak says: “The Royal Embassy of Cambodia in Thailand also has many activities in Bangkok to celebrate the 70th Anniversary. So we are doing both sides.”
The photo exhibition is open from Wednesday, September 23 to Sunday, September 27, at the Art Space at Factory Phnom Penh. Admission is free.
Visitors are invited to write their opinion about the relationship between Cambodia and Thailand and the best answers will win prizes from the Royal Thai Embassy and Thai businesspeople.
The closing ceremony will be held at 2pm on Sunday, September 27. Snacks and soft drinks will be provided to attendees. Speeches will be made by Panyarak and a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cambodia.
For more details about the 70 Years of Friendship in My Eyes photo exhibition, visit the Facebook page of the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh or FT Gallery’s Facebook page.