The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts considers the use of the Cambodian flag as a fabric to design clothes a denigration of the core values of the “Nation, Religion, King” motto that represents the Khmer people. The ministry asked that manufacturers of such clothing respect the flag and change their designs.

The remarks came after a production company used the Cambodian flag to design clothes for a music video, originally planned to be filmed in the Angkor Archaeological Park. The design has drawn both support and criticism.

Culture minister Phoeurng Sackona said the designers had used the flag as a fabric due to a lack of understanding of Cambodian traditions and values. She acknowledged that they had used it because they wanted to express national pride, but she urged them to reconsider.

“Small designs of the national flag are commonly printed on clothing but the entire flag should not be used to wrap the body. We honour the flag by proudly hoisting it high. Even the King honours the flag,” she said.

She added that the flag should never be worn below the waist.

“Sometimes people stain their fingers while eating and use their clothes to wipe their hands clean. If their clothes were made from our national flag, they would be wiping their dirty hands on the national flag, or sitting on it,” she said.

Sackona added that every nation has its own distinct culture, and that it would be wrong to apply the values of a different country to the Kingdom.

Popular singer Ton Chan Seyma and a group of women donning clothes with the national flag for a music video on March 4. FB

“In some countries in Europe, it is acceptable to use the national flag as a design for a doormat. This is their own concern, of course, while Khmer values are defined by the “Nation, Religion, King” motto. We should not try to use foreign traditions, especially when they contradict our own rich culture,” she said.

The Apsara National Authority (ANA), a body tasked with managing the Angkor Park, agreed with the minister’s views when reached for comment on March 8.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal said the use of the Cambodian flag to design clothes is an inappropriate gesture, as the flag is a symbol of the Khmer nation and demands respect.

“The national flag reflects the spirit of patriotism. It is presented to the military heroes who leave to fight for the nation or carry out humanitarian missions abroad. When a life is sacrificed on the battlefield, the nation is always grateful – and covers the coffin with the national flag to show respect,” he said.

He said it was therefore wrong to use it as clothing. It would be an insult to the whole nation if they sat on the flag, let it get dirty, or threw it away rather than washing it, he said, adding that many people treated their clothes this way.

Kosal said that if they want to show true patriotism, they should visit the Angkor site. Respecting its rules and helping to protect and preserve it would better display pride in the Khmer nation, he added.