The Apsara National Authority (ANA) denied that it had banned the use of camera tripods in the Angkor Archaeological Park, explaining that the confusion stemmed from a long-standing rule which required commercial photographers and videographers to apply for permission to film.
The explanation followed a Facebook post, which had gone viral, with an English caption reading “Tripods are now banned in the Angkor Wat area”.
One social media user wrote: “Not even on the stones or on the ground! No matter what your purpose, you need to ask for permission now? What if you want to remember a wonderful sunset? With no tripod, what quality of photograph would you get?”
Long Kosal, deputy director-general of ANA – the body tasked with managing the park – denied the allegations.
“The problem is that there is no ban on the use of tripods. We are attempting to regulate commercial photographers. Many World Heritage sites face the problem of ‘picture exploitation’, where photographers use their images for commercial gain,” he explained to The Post on June 10.
He said that the ANA has never banned people from taking picture as personal souvenirs, with or without a tripod, but explained that professional photographers were required to apply to the authorities, who have a fixed price list. The fees, which are low, are collected and paid into the state coffers, he noted.
“Whether permission is needed depends on the specific situation. The problem is not with the tripod, but with whether the person is taking pictures for commercial purposes,” he said.
Kosal said he had been informed by staff who were on duty at the time that the people complaining were a group of YouTubers who were shooting footage to create content. This meant it was very clear that they intended to use the images they captured to make money, so they should have requested permission to shoot.
“This clearly shows a lack of knowledge of the regulations, and demonstrates that their accusations were incorrect,” he said.
Broadly speaking, he said the ANA’s guards could usually differentiate between tourists and professionals by their equipment, although he noted that there would always be some exceptions.
“What we want is smooth management of the site for everyone. The ANA does not discriminate between individuals – or Cambodians or foreigners – because World Heritage sites are for everyone. The rules and regulations must be applied equally. What is special is that Cambodians do not have to pay an entrance fee.
He pointed out that pre-wedding or prayer ceremony photoshoots would require permission, just like any other organised shoot. This was simply to maintain order in the park, he said.
He also pointed out that violators are not subject to fines or further penalties.
“The YouTubers were not punished in any way, we just advised them not to do it again,” said Kosal.
He added that the rules were not new, and that there had previously been banners and signs which explained the policy. The regulations were printed in Khmer and several foreign languages.
The Angkor Code of Conduct for entry into the archaeological park, which is displayed at the entrance to the temple complex, states that videotaping or taking pictures with professional equipment for commercial purposes requires permission from the ANA.
Pa Chanroeun, president of the NGO Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said the ANA should clarify the regulations surrounding filming in the park and share the information widely. They could post it on their own social media or erect signs, he said, so that private citizens, tourists and commercial operators alike would understand what was required of them.
He said the conditions must be clear and not too strict, suggesting that small to medium video producers – such as YouTubers – should be exempt from the fees. He saw a huge benefit from videos that promoted Cambodia online, and believed that such content was hugely beneficial to the nation’s tourism industry.
“I know that in the past, the Ministry of Tourism hired peopIe to produce promotional pictures and videos. Now there are video producers and content creators on Facebook and YouTube that will make great videos that share Cambodia with the world ... for free,” he said.
“As long as they don’t create congestion or inconvenience other visitors, I think we should be open-minded,” he added.
Long Bunna Sireyvath, secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said commercial photography and video required payment, and that pricing was set by Angkor Enterprises – the body in charge of the temple complex’s income management – and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
He said the fees would be used to maintain the temple complex.
Bunna Sireyvath said he was aware of the allegations about a lack of access for the public to film at Angkor, but said the authorities had to be careful. Some people had argued in the past that they were shooting for personal purposes, but it was sometimes hard to tell who was merely trying to avoid paying for permission to shoot.
“If a person uses a regular camera to take pictures of their family and friends, it would be wrong to restrict them. But if they are setting up lighting and employing professional equipment, it is not possible for them to claim they are taking simple tourist shots,” he said.
“If you are using a regular camera to take snaps, we are more than happy for you to use them to spread the word about the majesty of Angkor,” he added.