Two Canadians held in Cambodia for 'dancing pornographically'
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, January 28, 2018 9:41AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 29, 2018 8:48AM EST
The aunt of one of two Canadian women detained in Cambodia for allegedly “dancing pornographically” says she is very concerned.
Eden Kazoleas of Drayton Valley, Alta., was among 10 foreigners charged Thursday after a party in a rented villa in the resort town of Siem Reap, near the Buddhist temple Angkor Wat.
“Eden is a very, very good kid. She is very outgoing. She doesn’t smoke. She doesn’t drink,” the 20-year-old’s aunt, Donna Kazoleas, told CTV Edmonton. “This is really, really concerning.”
A police release included photos of multiple clothed men and women straddling one another on the floor, some in sexually suggestive positions. Those photos are said to have been shared on social media prior to the arrests.
Jessica Drolet, 25, is the other Canadian being held. The eight other travellers include five British nationals, one New Zealander, one Norwegian, and one person from the Netherlands.
The prosecutor of the Siem Reap provincial court, Samrith Sokhon, told The Associated Press by phone that those charged face up to a year in prison if convicted.
Global Affairs Canada said consular services are being provided to the two detained Canadians.
“Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” spokesperson Brendan Sutton told CTV News in a statement Sunday.
The charges follow a year of “massive political and social repression” within the southeast Asian nation, according to Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow with the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
“The Cambodian government is trying to be a little bit more particular about people celebrating near their major monuments, but at the same time this is pretty unusual,” he told CTV News Channel.
The villa where the sweeping arrests took place is near Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple. In 2015, Angkor Wat topped travel website TripAdvisor’s list of favourite monuments in the world.
Kurlantzick said the Cambodian government is grappling with pressure to enforce more conservative values, an agenda that is at odds with the country’s party-oriented reputation among young western travellers. Foreigners dressed in skimpy clothing while visiting religious and historical monuments have been one source of tension.
“Cambodian officials have been a little frustrated,” Kurlantzick said. “Partly through their own fault, they allowed a certain very seedy sex tourism culture to take place in (the capital) Phnom Penh.”
He said that while the arrests are “pretty unusual,” travellers should be aware that the Cambodian government is increasingly lashing out against all types of foreign influence, including boisterous tourists.
“The overall environment in Cambodia has just become much more repressed over the last year,” Kurlantzick said. “The country is potentially something of a tinder box because of that.”
With files from CTV Edmonton and The Associated Press