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Ministry of Tourism Asks Uncle Roger to Apologize

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism issued a statement asking popular Youtuber Uncle Roger to apologize after making disparaging remarks about Cambodian cuisine in his latest video.

On July 30, Uncle Roger posted an eight million subscriber special entitled “Uncle Roger Make Adobo.” In it, he visits a restaurant in New York that specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine and without being prompted, says, “You don’t want food from Laos or Cambodia.” He then uses profanity to call their cuisine a lesser version of Thai food. Uncle Roger, whose channel tagline is, “Not a chef. I just complain,” is known for “roasting” or making fun of renowned chefs like Jamie Oliver and many American and British cooking shows who attempt Asian cuisine. This tends to unite Asian fans and has gained him millions of subscribers. However, his latest remarks disparage Southeast Asians in their own cultural traditions. One fan said, “He lost his uncle title in my book.” Honor and insults carry a greater meaning here than in the West and many want an apology.

The insult also stirs the pot in a divisive and ongoing debate, especially between Cambodian and Thailand, about who originated what in everything from food, to sports, to religion and more. One Youtube comment read, “Uncle Roger is clueless about history. Thailand exists way later than Cambodia and Laos. So where is Thai food from? A copy from Cambodia and Laos.” Statements like that generate further arguments of who did it first, causing regional divides in cultures that could instead be celebrating a common heritage.

The Ministry of Tourism says his remarks are damaging to the Cambodian tourism industry which has worked hard to promote Cambodia on the international stage for its beautiful culture and unique cuisine. It said his assessment did not represent the reality of Cambodian cuisine which was celebrated in Paris last year after the “Taste of Angkor” cookbook won the Best Asian Cookbook prize. Additionally, Khmer brothers have won “Best Pie in Australia” three times using Khmer-inspired flavors over the last few years.

The Ministry of Tourism has confirmed that it is working closely with relevant authorities to respond to the situation and requested that 32-year-old Nigel Ng or Uncle Roger publicly apologize to the Cambodian people and immediately edit the video.

Many believe Uncle Roger’s comments were an intentional move to stir up controversy and gain more attention. The comment definitely endears him to his Thai audience and the armchair activists who promote the ancient Siamese empire as the originator of much of Southeast Asian culture. Unfortunately, it has also caused hurt and embarrassment to a people whose culture was nearly completely erased during a genocide 40 years ago, and that is working hard to rebuild and preserve its heritage.

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