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Culture must be ‘properly’ inherited

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An Apsara dance troupe stand in front of Angkor Wat in 2017. Hong Menea

Culture must be ‘properly’ inherited

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that presenting Khmer culture and arts to the people in the present day and for the future generations is a good thing, but that it would amount to destroying Khmer culture if it was not done in accordance with proper standards.

Hun Sen said this in his special audio message on March 8 following disagreements over issues related to social media star and businesswoman Try Dana and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

The premier said that while he was happy when people wished to present Cambodian culture to the public, he and the culture ministry are also concerned about the actual performance.

“Showing Cambodian culture and arts to the people, especially the younger generation, is a good thing, but if it does not follow the rules, it is equal to destroying Cambodian culture.

“Therefore, I ask for special attention on the issue of forms that must be followed in accordance with the culture ministry’s instructions. I have also reminded the ministry to ensure that the construction of statues, Buddhas and other sculptures are done properly,” he said.

“The display of period costume needs to be done properly, otherwise it will spoil after we put it on display. It will ruin our original forms. Moreover, it could make the neighbouring countries accuse us of plagiarism,” he said.

Hun Sen said he saw the need to explain this to Dana and the general public to know that the culture ministry has the staff to protect Khmer ancestral culture. If the ministry allowed displays which were not in the original form, then it would be held responsible before the government and the National Assembly.

He advised Dana to follow the instructions and revise things as determined by the ministry. In case that she could not accept it, he would not allow the display.

“So, I request Dana to cooperate closely with the culture ministry. We have our own identity, so if we are displaying without following the model, it can harm our culture and other countries can accuse us of counterfeiting from them,” said Hun Sen.

In her March 8 Facebook post, Dana said she would comply with the premier’s instructions.

Back on March 6, Dana took to social media to express her dissatisfaction with the culture ministry, which required her to apply for a permit to do a photo shoot in front of Angkor Wat.

“If it is [strict] like this, those who wish to promote the Cambodian culture may no longer dare to do so. It’s so difficult and I’m running out of patience. I may have to cancel the plan for ancestral Khmer costume display and use only contemporary clothing,” she wrote.

Seng Sam An, an adviser to the ministry, took issue with Dana’s claims that the ministry did not allow her to do her planned photo shoot in front of Angkor Wat. He explained that the ministry did not allow it because Dana refused to follow the guidelines of its technical working group.

Sam An said the working group as well as the culture minister had never been strict about such requests, but that it must go through the ministry’s specialists, adding that the ministry would allow it if it is corrected. In the case of Dana’s request, he said the technical working group found a lot of mistakes.

“There is a well-established code for Khmer costume, no matter how you want to design. As long as it is in accordance to the era in question, the ministry will allow it . . . It’s not that difficult,” he said.

“If you love the national culture, you must do it right and follow the ministry’s guidelines,” he added.


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