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Angkor Shoe Draws Ire of Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Wednesday condemned the use of the Cambodian flag in the production of a new line of footwear advertised on the Internet and reported in local media this week.

The shoes were designed with the iconic symbol of Angkor Wat, on Keds canvas, infuriating many Cambodians and irking the foreign minister, who lambasted the design before flying to Hanoi Wednesday.

“The shoe is insulting and defames Cambodian honor and dignity,” Hor Namhong told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport. “This we cannot tolerate.”

Similar shoes were designed around the flags of many other countries, but Hor Namhong said he was concerned only with the image of Cambodia.

“In fact, the shoe issue affects our nation because Angkor Wat is a respectable [symbol] to the Cambodian people and the nation,” he said. “So Cambodia must investigate the production of the shoe. And then we will protest.”

Angkor Wat is a powerful national icon for Cambodians. In 2008, flip-flop sandals bearing the temple’s image appeared in markets in Vietnam’s Tai Ninh province, provoking a government investigation.

In November 2008, a Thai man was arrested for carving the temple’s image in a slab of concrete in front of a public toilet in Poipet, on the Thai border.

In 2003, unconfirmed rumors that a Thai actress had claimed the temple for Thailand sparked a night or rioting and looting in Phnom Penh that destroyed the Thai Embassy and many Thai businesses.

“Angkor Wat is the symbol of the Cambodian nation,” Hor Namhong said. “Angkor Wat and the national flag of Cambodia always stay in all Cambodians’ souls, hearts and minds. We cannot accept the production of these shoes, and the company must be responsible for violating Cambodia.”