When Arizona sisters Lindsey and Leslie Adams, 22 and 20, were deported from Cambodia last week after taking bare-bottom snapshots at the country’s most famous Buddhist temple, they became just the latest in a string of indecent exposure arrests at the country’s tourist sites.
The sisters were banned from entering the country for four years, fined $250 and put on a bus to Thailand. The official charges for dropping their pants on sacred ground: “trafficking pornography” and “exposing sexual body parts.”
According to the Phnom Penh Post, a spokeswoman for the agency that manages the Angkor Wat temple complex said, “This is the first time we’ve had to deal with several situations like this in such a short time,” she said. “Frankly, we don’t understand why they’re doing this.”
Angkor Wat is considered the largest religious monument in the world, and Cambodia’s most active tourist attraction. Its ornate architecture dates back to the early 12th century, and its was named a World Heritage Site in 1992.
Several similar incidents to the Adams sisters’ mooning have taken place at Angkor Wat just since the start of 2015. Three Frenchmen were kicked out of the country a week before the American sisters caused their stir. And just before that, a small national scandal erupted when topless photos of a model at the site went viral on social media, shortly before three Europeans were expelled for motorcycling naked across the country.
A spokesman for UNESCO, the U.N. agency that helps preserve rare cultural and historic sites, also told the Cambodian paper that “Angkor is still very much a sacred site” where Cambodians go to “pray every day.”
American and European tourism in Southeast Asia has spiked in recent years, attracted by low prices, exotic-seeming cultures and newfound safety. But the region’s sudden popularity among clueless foreigners, emboldened by their comparative wealth and their host countries’ reputation as a vacation playground, has led to frequent misunderstandings.
Besides Cambodia, other nearby countries where visitors have recently offended social and religious sensitivities include Thailand (for requesting sacred Buddhist images as tattoos) and Vietnam (for trampling on private farms while posing for photos).
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