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Kazakh MPs toughen penalties after spoof anthem shame
Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:33pm EDT
ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan toughened penalties for desecrating its state symbols on Thursday in a bid "to bring up patriotic feelings" after repeated cases of spoofs being played at ceremonies in place of the central Asian nation's anthem.
In March, the Kazakh shooting team demanded an apology after a phoney national anthem from the comedy film "Borat" -- a scathing parody of Kazakhstan -- was played instead of the real one at a medal award ceremony in Kuwait. The ceremony was later rerun.
Shortly before that, Ricky Martin's racy hit "Livin' La Vida Loca" was performed instead of the national anthem to a confused audience that included the local governor before the start of a skiing competition in a northern Kazakh region.
"Lately, there have been so many misdeeds against our state symbols," Economy Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev told the upper Senate chamber of parliament. "The anthem was messed up."
"Proceeding from this, we decided to toughen penalties ... There are certain things that we must respect. We must bring up patriotic feelings in ourselves," he said.
Many of Kazakhstan's 16.7 million people resent the fact that after 20 years of independence from the Soviet Union their country is still not widely known in the world, despite occupying the ninth largest area and being a major exporter of oil, grain and metals.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to double penalties for desecrating state symbols, which also include the national flag and emblem, to a maximum of 1.236 million tenge ($8,300).
A separate bill passed by the Senate obliged Kazakh athletes to know the lyrics and music of Kazakhstan's anthem, a law that would apply to Kazakh athletes competing in the London Olympics.
In another episode widely published in the Internet, workers in the western oil city of Atyrau were using the country's sky-blue national flag, which features a golden eagle embracing the sun, to carry litter.
(Reporting by Raushan Nurshaeyva; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)
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