The APSARA National Authority (ANA) has asked the social network company TikTok to block the posting of video clips which contain images that disrespect the culture and heritage of Cambodia. They have also requested that the public refrain from sharing such content.

The request was issued on November 12, following shocked reactions by numerous social media users to the videos, which showed a woman moving through Angkor Wat Temple, with superimposed images of the former King of Thailand and the Thai flag appearing in the video, possibly with the intent of drawing a divide between Thai and Cambodian viewers.

ANA said that a group of foreign tourists intended to shoot video of designer clothes at the temple on October 23. Seeing that, the ANA banned them after it was determined that some of the clothing was inappropriate. Officials also checked the group’s professional videography equipment, and asked that several offensive images be deleted.

The authorities speculated that the group may have used their phones to continue to shoot additional footage, which was then edited to contain inappropriate sounds and images.

“Due to the provocative content of the video, the ANA has requested the social networking company TikTok to block the clip. It has also urged the public not to share because it supports the incitement of negative activities,” said the ANA.

“The ANA apologises for any shortcomings in its work. We are committed to preserving the beautiful image of the Angkor Archaeological Park,” it said.

ANA deputy director-general Long Kosal on November 13, 2023, asked not to comment beyond the contents of the release on November 13.

Chhort Bunthong, head of the Culture, Education and Tourist Relations Department at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), supported the ANA’s request to ban the video, as the people who filmed it edited it to integrate the flag and the King of Thailand, possibly with the malicious intent of suggesting that the temple belongs to Thailand.

“They clearly had bad intentions. Although the ANA explained that it asked for the images to be deleted, some of them were still used and edited to make the video, which clearly shows their bad intentions. This is a sensitive issue, and could lead to a confrontation between Cambodians and Thais, so we need to shut down the sharing of this content as soon as possible. It has already led to a small outcry among social media users,” he said.

However, Bunthong noted that this case remained a minor one, so Cambodians should not treat it as a major cultural or diplomatic source of conflict. At the same time, he urged all social media users to stop liking or sharing the content.

He also believed a ban on the video would prevent a possible boil over of tensions between the two neighbouring Kingdoms.