The Angkor Archeological Park, inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1992, is the kingdom’s largest tourist destination. It is located in Siem Reap province, some 315 km northwest of capital Phnom Penh. The Apsara is the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap.
After several recent incidents of tourists behaving badly or dressing inappropriately at the Angkor Archaeological Park, the Apsara Authority yesterday said that a code of conduct for tourists visiting the temples, a work two years in the making, is nearly complete. Sok Sangvar, head of tourism management planning for Apsara, said yesterday that by early June, Apsara should be ready to send the draft to experts at the International Criminal Court to review the code’s legality. He also mentioned that much of it is common sense:
“Basically the code looks at where we need to indicate what not to do when visiting Angkor,” Sangvar said. “Things such as not dressing inappropriately, and not touching things.”
While the final touches are being put on the draft conduct code on the heels of several high-profile cases of tourists running into legal problems after taking nude photos inside temples, listing rules for behaviour at Angkor temples was not inspired by them.
The fanfare around the topless Apsara images started when in 2013, self-proclaimed “World’s #1 Art Nude” magazine Volo featured a scantily or in some cases not-at-all-clad Russian Playboy model draped over the Angkorian temples. Then in January 2015, three foreign tourists who were producing pornographic photographs at the complex of the Angkor Archeological Park, and precisely at Banteay Kdei temple, were detained by the Apsara National Authority, in close cooperation with the Tourism Police Unit and the Heritage Protection Police Unit. Soon after that, half nude photos of likely Chinese woman were circulated online. This act was strongly condemned by the Apsara Authority and management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap province, saying that those naked photos completely opposed Cambodian moral and culture, and seriously downgraded heritage and dignity of women.
When completed, the code of conduct book will likely be distributed to people in the tourism industry, said Long Kosal, another Apsara Authority spokesman:
“We will widely circulate this code of conduct to relevant authorities and private sectors that are involved with tourism such as tour guides, tour agencies, hotels, etc. We need their cooperation to get a good result in practice,” Kosal said
This code of conduct could be applied to other sites in the Kingdom of Cambodia, but right now it is pretty Angkor-specific, Sangvar said:
“We’re exploring all these ways for tourists to understand what not to do,” he said. “The rules are mainly about the sustainable development of Angkor.”