Even though Hollywood’s controversial comedy “The Interview” -- which features the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un -- can be viewed online in various places, Cambodia’s government has agreed to a North Korean request to ban the movie. The move reflects Cambodia's desire to maintain good relations with the Pyongyang regime.
“The [Democratic People’s] Republic of North Korea sent a diplomatic note complaining that ‘The Interview,’ which insults its leader, was copied from the Internet and distributed at a few markets in Cambodia,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary Long Visalo said in a statement.
The statement said that North Korea "has regarded the action as a collaboration with its enemies that could lead to fragile relations between the two countries,” according to Radio Free Asia.
Cambodia’s willingness to cooperate is consistent with a history of relatively positive diplomatic relations with North Korea as well as local laws prohibiting political propaganda or activity against a third country.
Though the two nations do not share official trade ties as do North Korea and China, Cambodia and North Korea do share long-established diplomatic ties. Cambodia is North Korea’s oldest ally in Southeast Asia. Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk reportedly had a home in North Korea. The king was even invited as a special guest to the country by the late Kim Il Sung. Additionally, the two nations engage in mutual assistance for various environment and agriculture projects like forestry and aquaculture. According to a report by Reuters in 2011, delegates from Pyongyang arrived in Cambodia with the intention of importing Cambodian rice as an answer to North Korea's food shortage and expressed interest in investing in Cambodia's mining and energy sectors.
According to the statement, the North Korean embassy in Phnom Penh made a formal request for the Cambodian government to take immediate action to put an end to all forms of distributing the film, urging local authorities to remove pirated DVDs from markets and making sure local television stations and movie theaters ban screenings. As a result, the Cambodian Television Association, the government body that regulates broadcasting in the country, has instructed all of its stations to not air the film.
While the government agreed to North Korea’s request to pull the movie from theaters, many think such efforts will not stop those who are determined to see the film.
“The people can see it on the Internet, on the YouTube," Sin Chan Saya, the head of the Culture Ministry’s film censorship committee, said to the Cambodia Daily. “How can we stop this? I know the shops have it, but we do not control the DVD [shops].”