Official Wants Film to Steal the Show

With his distinctive looks and zeal for preserving Khmer culture, Minister of Information Lu Laysreng would seem a natural for the movies.

But the film debut he is set to make is as a screenwriter, not an actor. He is working to bring to production a short film on antiquities looting and smuggling.

“I wrote this script in 1986 because I saw a lot of smuggling of [statue] heads from temples across the country…Bud­dha heads, Rama heads,” Lu Laysreng said.

Now, he is rewriting the script and looking for funding for a 45-minute film “to show people how the Khmer people are allowing their culture to be destroyed.”

The film, tentatively titled “The Blood­stained Stones,”already has the support of at least one prominent backer—Prime Minister and CPP Vice President Hun Sen.

The premier has donated $2,000 toward the project, said Lu Laysreng, a longtime member of Funcinpec.

“We talked and he knows that I want to make this film. He also wants to stop the smuggling. Maybe he likes my idea.”

Looting of temples such as Banteay Chhmar has been in the news recently, with pieces showing up for sale in Bang­kok. The looting prompted a lament from King Norodom Sihanouk—himself a movie-maker—who called on the government to act to protect the country’s cultural heritage.

A movie, perhaps, was not what the monarch had in mind, but Lu Laysreng said he hopes the film might raise awareness and prick the nation’s conscience.

Lu Lay­sreng said he has no aspirations to match the production prowess of the King, who often writes, produces and directs his movies. “I’m not really a filmmaker,” the minister protested.

The project, if it gets off the ground, will instead be directed by Mao Ayuth, chief of state-run TVK, Lu Laysreng said.

Lu Laysreng, who in his three months as information minister has issued orders calling for television stations to stop showing Khmer women in short skirts and for radio stations to refrain from using non-Khmer words such as “OK,” said that looting and smuggling also threatens to erode Cam­bodian culture.

“I want to express my very sore heart that Khmers can do like this to their nation,” he said. “I want to prevent more smuggling.”

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