Buth Reaksmey Kongkea
A Cambodian bride poses for a portrait during a wedding in Siem Reap on November 19. The picture, which was taken with the permission of the woman and her husband, is part of a series of photos by Japanese photojournalist Go Takayama, who was arrested last month on charges of producing pornography.
THE Siem Reap provincial court will try a Japanese man next week on charges of producing pornography, though the defendant claims the photos were shot as part of an inoffensive project for the recently-concluded Angkor Photo Festival.
Chea Heng, deputy chief of Siem Reap’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection office, said Go Takayama, 28, had been arrested last month after he hired a Cambodian man and a female sex worker to take him to photograph women at a brothel in Siem Reap district’s Thvay Dangkum commune.
Police discovered 78 illicit photos on Takayama’s camera that depicted sex workers in Siem Reap, Chea Heng added.
“I think this is a serious offence that has affected Cambodian women and society,” he said. “We request the court to punish him strongly in accordance with the law.”
But Jessica Lim, coordinator assistant for the Angkor Photo Festival, said Takayama’s photos depicted a single married couple and did not include any nudity, though she acknowledged that she had not had the chance to scrutinise them closely, as she had only seen thumbnail photos.
“The couple, in some of the pictures they’re posing next to each other, as in a portrait shot, and in others they’re standing there hugging each other,” Lim said.
“There’s absolutely no nudity… there’s nothing you can see. If anything, it’s the viewer’s imagination.”
Lim said Takayama had travelled to Cambodia to participate in a workshop as part of the photo festival.
“The idea of him looking for sex workers and being asked to be taken to brothels – I think both are extremely inaccurate,” she said.
Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Soveinthal said Takayama had been charged under the Kingdom’s anti-human trafficking law and faced between six months and one year in prison.
“Making or publishing pornographic pictures is absolutely prohibited in Cambodia and is in violation of Cambodian law, so the court will make a decision on this next week,” Ty Soveinthal said.
110 photographers hosted exhibitions at the Angkor Photo Festival, which ran from November 20 to 27.
“I think the pictures that were taken by Go Takayama are not pornographic, but artistic,” said Suon Sophea, Takayama’s defence attorney.
“If we compare the pictures to Cambodian films, or the photos of singers and stars that appear in Cambodian magazines, they are not the worst thing in Cambodia.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE