Cultural Understanding

The Cambodians have every right to be incensed. I don’t see them strutting about el fresco in front of one’s national treasure:

Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction — the complex of ancient temples that includes Angkor Wat — is suffering from a form of overexposure: At least five foreign visitors have been arrested and deported this year for taking nude photos at the sacred sites.

Authorities have no tolerance for people stripping down at Angkor Archeological Park, a sprawling, centuries-old UNESCO World Heritage Site that drew 2 million visitors last year. The incidents are also upsetting to ordinary Cambodians, for whom the Khmer-era complex holds enormous spiritual and historical significance.

“Angkor Wat is the most famous sacred … temple in Cambodia, where everyone — not only tourists but also Cambodians themselves — has to pay respect,” said Rattanak Te, an administrative assistant who lives in Phnom Penh, the capital. “It definitely upsets me and all Cambodians, because outsiders will think we — Cambodian people — are careless and do not take good care of this World Heritage (site) by allowing these tourists to do such an unacceptable act.”

This month, guards arrested two American sisters after seeing them snap photos of each other’s naked backsides in the temple of Preah Khan, said Kerya Chau Sun, spokeswoman for the Apsara Authority, which manages the temple complex in Siem Reap, in northwestern Cambodia. Lindsey Adams, 22, and Leslie Adams, 20, both of Prescott, Arizona, were each sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence, a fine of 1 million riel ($250), deportation and a four-year ban from the country.

In January, three French men in their 20s were deported after they were caught taking nude photographs at Angkor complex. Another photo showing a topless woman at the site has circulated on social media, but officials believe it is fake, according to Chau Sun. Three tourists were also caught riding a motorbike naked near Phnom Penh in January, according to local media reports.

Reached via email, one of the Frenchmen, Rodolphe Fourgeot, said he did not want to talk about the case. He said it demonstrates “endemic corruption” in Cambodia but did not elaborate.

I’m not sure I understand. Is it corrupt to arrest people who break the law?

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