Temple porn has king up in arms

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 May, 1999, 12:00am

Hawkers peddling hard-core pornographic videos at one of the country's most isolated and sacred temples have outraged King Norodom Sihanouk.


The 76-year-old king sent a formal royal dispatch to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging action to protect the 'reputation' of the recently opened Preah Vihear on the Thai-Cambodia border.


Writing to the 'most respected and beloved' Mr Hun Sen, King Sihanouk warned of traders dealing in 'inappropriate' goods at Preah Vihear - 'the shrine of our people', according to a copy of the dispatch obtained by the South China Morning Post.


The dispatch follows a report in the Post last month outlining the new pressures peace was bringing to Preah Vihear after decades of war.


An Easter Sunday visit found the approaches to the main temple clogged with newly arrived Vietnamese and Cambodian traders seeking Thai buyers in what was until recently Khmer Rouge territory.


Gems, rare wildlife and fake Rolexes were all on offer alongside racks of pornography openly displayed before passing Buddhist monks at the ninth-century ruins.


'The king is fully aware of these reports . . . Preah Vihear has always been of the utmost importance to him. [The temples] are a symbol of Cambodia's independence,' said one court insider.


As a young prince, King Sihanouk battled through the International Court in the early 1960s to win back the temples - as strategic as they are historic - from Thai rule.


Local Thai military officials yesterday warned it could be 'business as usual' for some time yet.


Little change has been noted and increased numbers of Thais are visiting, particularly on weekends.


The border is jointly administered by Thai and Cambodian troops, who control the temple itself, and profits from the 100 baht (HK$21) fee are split.


'This is an army-to-army deal and peace is proving very lucrative for us. I cannot see how Hun Sen can control this,' one Thai military source said.


 

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