A T the Phnom Penh offices of radio station FM 90, teenagers frequently loiter
outside the front doors looking for someone.
"They are waiting to see me.
Sometimes they wait all day", says Ek Mongkul, Cambodia's best-known radio
Famous for his "golden voice", many of Mongkul's fans are
anxious to see him in person.
"About 20 people a day come to see me. They
want to hear my voice directly, to see whether it is the same as in the
"They want me to talk to them as much as possible, but I don't
have much time to be with them."
Mongkul's voice dominates FM 90, the
Funcinpec party radio station, whether it be announcing the news or
advertisements, delivering impersonations or reading listeners' love letters to
His largest audience is reserved for his nightly song
request show, where Mongkul talks and jokes with those who ring in to dedicate
songs to relatives, friends or lovers.
About 30 people a night request
songs, but patience is often required to get through on the
Mongkul talks of one fan complaining that it took four months'
of trying before he got through to the station. Another said he could not help
but banged his telephone when he couldn't get through.
Callers often are
not so much keen to request a song as to just talk to him.
any song, but they especially want me to talk to them," he says.
say my voice makes them happy. Songs are good to their ears, but sometimes they
make people sad."
Invariably, the conversation turns to love - or lost
love - and Mongkul is asked to play cupid.
"They always want me to give
them advice, especially those who suffer from heart break.
"So far I have
solved about 10 cases for couples, either to reunite or separate them. My
solution depends on situation from both sides.
"The problem [for female
callers] is that their boyfriends neglect to take tender care of
Fans often speak ecstatically about Mongkul's talents, describing
him as the Emperor of Voice, the Angel of Voice, the Love Doctor and other
He says he tries to use his influence to spread messages on
the airwaves about subjects like the environment or Aids, because "this is a
more effective way to educate people than a straight educational
As well as giving advice to lovers or hopeful lovers, he is
known for impersonations - children, the elderly and "strong" people are his
specialties - and wisecracks.
He receives about 100 letters a day, and
sometimes gifts like handkerchiefs or fruit from fans.
makes his wife both proud and jealous, says Mongkul, who has five
He attributes his vocal talents to a gift of nature and a keen
interest in radio since he was a child.
Mongkul's radio days began at the
SiteB refugee camp in Thailand in the early 1980s, when he was recruited to work
for the Funcinpec radio station.
He later also worked as a voice dubber
for videos, and returned to Cambodia during the 1993 election
He now works 17 hours a day, he says, and counts both King
Norodom Sihanouk and First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh among his
"If you lived in France, you would become a millionaire," he
says Prince Ranariddh told him.
His popularity is set to have another
boost when FM 90, which can now only be heard within 60km of Phnom Penh, expands
its broadcasts nationwide. The "Emperor of Voice" looks certain to attract more