The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts considers the use of the Cambodian flag as fabric to design clothing as a denigration of the core values of the motto “Nation, Religion, King” which represents the Khmer people. The ministry asked the makers of these garments to respect the flag and change their designs.
The remarks came after a production company used the Cambodian flag to design clothing for a music video, originally slated to be filmed at the Angkor Archaeological Park. The design drew both support and criticism.
Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona said the designers used the flag as fabric due to a lack of understanding of Cambodian traditions and values. She acknowledged that they used it because they wanted to express their national pride, but she urged them to reconsider.
“Small patterns of the national flag are usually printed on clothing, but the entire flag should not be used to wrap the body. We honor the flag by proudly raising it high. Even the king honors the flag,” she said.
She added that the flag should never be worn below the waist.
“Sometimes people stain their fingers while eating and use their clothes to wipe their hands. If their clothes were made from our national flag, they would wipe their dirty hands on the national flag or sit on it,” she said.
Sackona added that each nation has its own distinct culture and it would be wrong to apply the values of a different country to the Kingdom.
“In some countries in Europe, it is acceptable to use the national flag as a design for a doormat. This is their concern of course, while Khmer values are defined by the motto ‘Nation, Religion, King’. We should not try to use foreign traditions, especially when they contradict our rich culture,” she said.
The Apsara National Authority (ANA), a body responsible for managing Angkor Park, shared the minister’s views when contacted for comment on March 8.
ANA spokesman Long Kosal said using the Cambodian flag to design clothing is an inappropriate gesture, as the flag is a symbol of the Khmer nation and demands respect.
“The national flag reflects the spirit of patriotism. It is presented to military heroes who go to fight for the nation or carry out humanitarian missions abroad. When a life is sacrificed on the battlefield, the nation is always grateful and covers the coffin with the national flag to show respect,” he said.
He said it was therefore wrong to use it as clothing. It would be an insult to the whole nation if they sat on the flag, let it get dirty or threw it away rather than washing it, he said, adding that many people treated their clothes that way.
Kosal said if they want to show true patriotism, they should visit the Angkor site. Respecting its rules and helping to protect and preserve it would better show the pride of the Khmer nation, he added.