A Cambodian judge is investigating whether to pursue pornography charges against 10 foreigners arrested after organising a party that featured indecent dancing, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.
The 10 were arrested on January 25 along with 77 other foreigners in a raid on the “Pub Crawl or Let’s Get Wet” event in Siem Reap province, home to the ancient Angkor Wat ruins.
Siem Reap Provincial Court prosecutor Keut Vannareth told Reuters the 10 had been charged provisionally on Monday with producing pornography for their role in organising the party and the case had been sent to the investigating judge on Tuesday.
The other 77 foreigners arrested were freed after being educated about their unacceptable behaviour.
Those charged are five Britons, one Dutch citizen, two Canadians, a New Zealander and a Norwegian, according to Sourng Sophea, a lawyer for the group. In his three-page submission to the court, the lawyer said the party-goers had not been naked.
“When police arrived, they were wearing underwear and bras as they drank,” he said, adding that they could face between one month and one year in prison if convicted.
“They did not produce pornographic images or show their genitals.
“The charge of producing pornography is a little too harsh,” he said. “Now, they are in prison and this is too much.”
He said the accused had not published any pictures of the event and had committed no crime.
But Samrith Sokhon, a prosecutor at the court in Siem Reap, said the group had produced “pornographic images” and circulated them online to attract tourists to the event.
He said their activities were against “our tradition” and noted Siem Reap’s proximity to Angkor Wat, which in addition to being Cambodia’s most popular tourist site is also considered sacred.
Cambodia has become a favourite with backpackers and budget travellers over the past decade, but has more recently tried to establish itself as more of a luxury destination.
Angkor Wat is the country’s top tourist attraction. The ancient temple complex holds a special place in Cambodia’s history as the former capital of the Khmer Empire and visitors are told to behave with respect at the site.
Skimpy clothing was banned at the temple complex in 2016 and foreigners have previously been arrested for taking racy photos at the site. But deportation not prison time is the norm.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said he supported the arrests of the tourists.
“The law bans this kind of thing and maybe they were warned in advance,” he said. “Siem Reap is a heritage site.”
Britain’s foreign office has said it is aware of the case, while Dutch travel organisations on Monday called on tourists to “respect religions and temples” when travelling in foreign countries, popular daily tabloid De Telegraaf said.
Reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse