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Cambodia’s new puritans – Asia Times


The Cambodian government doesn’t just want to control what its citizens say and think; now it wants to control what they wear. On April 28, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts launched a new department, the Disciplinary and Accolade Council, which will monitor social media for images of women who, it deems, are dressed too sexily.

Heading up this new puritanical council is Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona, the front woman of the campaign. But clearly, the initiative is being led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On February 17, he instructed the government’s Cambodian National Council for Women to track down online vendors and “order them to stop live-streaming until they change to proper clothes.” Dressing provocatively to sell clothes, he claimed, apparently not understanding decades of advertising, “is a violation of our culture and tradition.”

For the prime minister, it’s the job of this already draconian government to “educate” women about what they should wear.

Days later – as the coronavirus pandemic was raging and Phnom Penh was doing nothing to prevent it, except showing its allegiance to Beijing – police arrested a woman (whom I don’t think should be named) for apparently dressing too sexily in photos on social media, when trying to sell her clothing products online.

She was “educated” by the police and then charged under the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation – so, in effect, for producing pornography – and convicted to six months in prison. 

“These charges rest on the abusive misapplication of a law which was supposedly intended to combat human trafficking, but instead is being used to oppress women,” Amnesty International’s regional director, Nicholas Bequelin, said in a statement at the time.

“Samdech Techo Prime Minister,” began a post on Hun Sen’s Facebook page, where he – as usual, referring to himself in the third person – “also warned of measure against some online product sellers who dress extremely sexy and do live sale promotion of their products via social media, which has an effect on the values, morality, and honor of our Cambodian women.”


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