Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday criticised a performance by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia in Singapore, saying it insulted Cambodian culture and arts because a Singaporean magician performed in front of them as they sat in prayer behind him.
Speaking at the 22nd National Cultural Day celebration at the Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hun Sen also laid recommendations to improve national culture.
Regarding the recent performance, he said the ballet troupe was meant to perform during a prayer service for happiness.
However, he said the dancers sat in prayer at one point while a Singaporean magician performed in front of them, bringing dishonour to classical Khmer arts.
“As the head of government, I cannot accept this degrading performance by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia as it was not executed properly. All royal ballet performances must face the King or the head of the government.
“Though the ones who led the troupe are royal family members, they still have to invite the members to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts for advice after this. They cannot present themselves as royal family members and bring Khmer arts to destruction.
“Our national arts belong to the Cambodian people rather than any royal family members. The King doesn’t consider arts to be his exclusively,” Hun Sen said.
He said the dispute was not between the governments of Cambodia and Singapore. Rather, he said a Singaporean person had committed an inappropriate act along with some Khmer people, including one person who was removed from his position by the prime minister on Tuesday.
While Hun Sen did not reveal any name, he said the person had the rank of the assistant to the minister attached to the prime minister. He then ordered the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to manage arts more seriously.
Hun Sen also laid out some recommendations, including the preservation of historical sites and pagodas.
He expressed support for the ministries of Culture and Fine Arts, and Information, to find prime time settings to screen Khmer films.
He said local authorities had to facilitate the shooting of Khmer films. The Ministry of Culture had to collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Consulate to hold cultural events every year, he said.
Hun Sen also requested that artists stop throwing insults at each other on social media, as they were role models for their fans.