The Apsara National Authority (ANA) announced that anyone looking to film any of the historical temples at Angkor Wat or in other areas under the ANA’s purview must apply for a permit to avoid the possibility of causing reputational damage to the ancient monuments through misinformation or inappropriate use.

In a notice dated December 28, the ANA said that as a body tasked with managing the Angkor Archaeological Park, it needs to take measures to protect the temples as the invaluable cultural heritage of the Khmer ancestors and as World Heritage Sites that have universal value to all humankind.

“Please kindly submit a request for permission to go live at the temples in the park. Permissions will be granted to members of the general public in most cases in order to help promote tourism and it is free of charge for individuals.

“However, businesses engaged in filming or photographing the temples must comply with a different set of procedures and principles,” it noted.

It said that during the pandemic, ANA had allowed businesses and tour guides licensed by the Ministry of Tourism to capture video on mobile phones explaining the history of various temples to visitors free of charge and without any permit required.

In explaining the new requirement for a permit, the ANA said one of its main concerns has been the management and control over the businesses doing pre-wedding photography sessions for couples in the park because they need to be scheduled ahead of time in order to avoid the situation at Angkor Wat “falling into anarchy”.

Similarly, the ANA now also requires the public to apply for traditional photography permits to ensure that the number of people filming at any given time is manageable, but permission will be granted for free.

Ngov Kim Sreng, a Chinese-language tour guide in Siem Reap, said on December 29 that the timing of the notice may be due to the fact that some tour guides have made videos on YouTube to attract customers that have ended up with such a large number of viewers that they are even earning a sizeable monthly and annual income for doing them through YouTube’s system of paying content creators a portion of advertising revenues based on audience size.

Kim Sreng suggested that those making live videos on the history of the temples, especially businesses and tour guides who have been trained and licensed by the tourism ministry, should have the right to do so because of their credentials as such. He noted that if the Ministry of Culture or the ANA want to control the information that is spread about the temples, that’s a whole other set of concerns.

“I think it would be a bad policy, but different ministries have different mindsets. I do not know whether the viewpoint of the ANA is wider than ours or looking further ahead than we do. But as I said, [tour guides] are promoting this information on the temples to encourage visitors to come to these locations,” he said.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal said on December 29 that the request for an advance permit was to prevent any misrepresentation of the temple’s history, thereby causing confusion and leading viewers to forget the true history, but broadcasting live in public and sharing their fun experience while visiting the Angkor area will not be a problem.

“We ask that people avoid livestreams that talk about the history of the temples if they do not know for certain what that history is because it can mislead people and give the wrong impression.

“Our policy for tour guides is different. We allow our licensed tour guides to livestream or film and use their training to talk about the history and other aspects of the temples. We just want them to inform us in advance about what they’re going to cover in their livestreams, but generally they are encouraged to help us with promotion in this manner,” he said.