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Outrage over Thai hotel’s “appropriation of Cambodian culture”

A tourist poses for a photo inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on June 7, 2020, as it reopened for visitors following restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. (AFP/Mladen Antonov). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Oct 3, 2020, Khmer Times. Social media was ablaze today with criticism of a Thai Hotel which seems to be appropriating Khmer culture and landmarks – such as the famed Angkor Wat temple complex – for commercial purposes, Khmer Times reported.

Le Palais hotel, on the Thai island of Koh Phangan, appears to have built an entire complex pastiching some of Cambodia’s most cherished icons under the slogan of “Discover the pride of Angkor”.

A statement on the hotel’s website states that “Our hotel is inspired by the beautiful ruins of Angkor Wat located in Cambodia. All of our buildings, decorations and rooms are handmade to reproduce at perfection what you could see in Cambodia.”

Visitors to Le Palais are offered a choice of rooms, all bearing Cambodian names such as “The Angkor Rooms” described as “As the aesthetic distinctiveness and its cultured surrounding, Angkor Wat is the most valued and admired of the Khmer Empire, The Palace of the King.”

Other rooms include “The Bayon Rooms” described as “Monumental smiling face, famous carving, Bayon is the last state to be built at Angkor. Over thousand large faces alias the famous smile of Angkor.”, as well as “The Bantey Srei Rooms” – described as “With elaborate carvings, refined building and its miniature scale for the ancient queen, Bantey Srei is known as the jewel in the crown of Khmer art”

Social media commentators have reacted with a mixture of anger and bemusement, with some criticising the hotel for what they call “cultural appropriation”. One commentator said “Angkor Wat is the property of Khmer people. It is not right that a foreign country steals our culture”. Other comments include “This is the brand of Khmer, Thai must ask for permission from Khmer.” and “It’s really sad, a thief has stolen the culture of Khmer heritage”

Other commentators have taken a more humorous angle saying “When I last checked, Koh Phangan was over 1000kms away from Angkor Wat – why do they have these buildings!?”

Whatever the reaction, it seems the Le Palais Hotel has touched a nerve with proud Cambodians.

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