Cambodian authorities are continuing their probe into the “Nam Vang Noodle” brand, which has landed in hot water with Cambodian authorities for using the image of Angkor Wat temple and “Phnom Penh” name on its products without authorisation from the government.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay told Fresh News on August 27 that preliminary evidence indicates Vietnam as the perceived country of origin of the brand’s products, which bear an illustration of the iconic archaeological site and the names “Phnom Penh” and “Nam Vang” – its Vietnamese appellation.
He called on all parties involved in the production and distribution of the products to immediately cease and desist, emphasising that the reputation of the “Phnom Penh Noodle” brand for quality and standards was at stake.
The ministry registered “Phnom Penh Noodle” as a collective brand in 2019 and awarded ownership to the Almond Hospitality Group, under a collective business system.
A collective business system is an organisation composed of businesses, merchants and professionals from the same industry or geographical region. It typically pools resources, shares information and provides other benefits for its members.
Thay noted that the maker of these products remains unknown, but stressed that the ministry would take immediate action to put a halt to production, once they are identified.
“Because of the [Covid-19] lockdown in Vietnam, trade representatives have not been able to go down and investigate. Once the source is clear, we will have an official request an immediate stop, as has been done in the past,” he said.
The Cambodian trade attache to the US on August 26 met with an importer of the “Nam Vang Noodle” brand, the Cambodian embassy in Washington said in a statement.
The embassy said the products had been spotted for sale at Asian supermarkets across the US East Coast.
It ruled out that these products had originated from the Kingdom, and underscored that the Cambodian authorities had not granted permission to use the image or name.
The embassy did not immediately indicate a perceived country of origin of the products. But of note, the labelling on the packaging contains Chinese, English and Vietnamese – the language of the brand name.
The act constitutes a violation of Cambodian law and international treaties and agreements on trademarks, and misleads consumers into believing that the products come from the Kingdom, it said.
“The embassy investigated and identified [the importer], sent the embassy’s commercial counsellor to meet the company and lay down the law, and issued an official notice to the firm to stop importing and selling the products,” it added.
On its website, the embassy identifies its commercial counsellor, or trade attache, as Sam Sithisak.
The embassy went on to say that it would “take further action in case the company does not comply with the notice”.
It called on all Cambodians in the US, especially students, to refrain from buying Nam Vang Noodle-branded products.
It also urged the Cambodian diaspora there to report any products that illegally bear or contain any images or logos belonging to the Kingdom, saying the US will take swift legal action against any offending party according to the law.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng underlined that putting Cambodian names or symbols on unauthorised products would undermine the reputation of their registered counterparts that adhere to national hygiene standards.
He told The Post on August 29: “Such an act is unacceptable to Cambodia. If anyone wants to use Cambodian names or symbols, they may come to Cambodia and invest directly, or ask Cambodian authorities for permission to legally use the barcodes.”
He insisted that all merchandise sold abroad that bears Cambodian intellectual property must have the proper barcodes, which when scanned indicate the exact locations of production and packaging.
Honest companies must obey the law, he stressed, citing as an example US retailer Amazon, which he said recently met with CCC leaders looking for properly-registered Cambodian products that follow recognised standards to bring to its website.
Thay, the commerce ministry spokesman, pointed out that this was not an isolated incident, and that his ministry – in cooperation with its foreign and culture counterparts – has periodically had to take action, and send cease and desist letters via embassies in foreign countries.
The images of Angkor Wat and the Cambodian flag are the protected intellectual trademarks most often used on products without authorisation from the government, he noted.
The Post could not reach Thay for comment on August 29.
In May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation sent a letter to Cambodian ambassador to India Panha Pichkhun to look into rice exporter Voyage India over its “Angkor Wat Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice” brand of products which feature an image of the temple.
The company purportedly imports milled rice from Thailand and sells it across India and to African countries under the brand name.
The products were still advertised on Voyage India’s website as of the evening of August 29.