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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cartoon sparks controversy

Cartoon sparks controversy

Cartoon sparks controversy

A

POPULAR Khmer language daily newspaper Koh Santipheap (Island of Peace) has

been reprimanded for publishing a cartoon after an MP complained that it

ridiculed the King.

The newspaper's June 20-21 edition printed a cartoon

titled "To bring the Khmer Rouge to power?" The picture depicts King Sihanouk

with drops of sweat pouring from his face hauling a heavy cart loaded with Khmer

Rouge leaders through a no-entry street in front of the Council of Ministers

building.

KR President Khieu Samphan is seated in the front of the cart

armed with a knife and poised to stab the King. Ieng Sary is seated in the

middle of the cart and orders Samphan "Don't stab yet." Pol Pot, seated in the

back of the cart, is armed with an ax and has an enigmatic smile on his

face.

A letter dated June 21 from Funcinpec MP Ahmad Yahya made a

complaint to the Ministry of Information. It was obtained by the Post and said

the newspaper had disparaged King Sihanouk's credibility and dignity. The letter

added that the newspaper had insulted people from all walks of life who consider

the King as the God of the Cambodian people.

Upon receiving the protest

letter the Ministry of Information called in the editor of the Koh Santipheap

.

In a reply to Yahya's letter dated June 27 Minister of Information Ieng

Mouly said he had dealt with the complaint . Mouly's letter said that Koh

Santipheap editor Oy Thong Pang had promised not to run any more cartoons which

could be considered demeaning to the King.

Pang, a veteran journalist

with over 20 years experience, said he had no intention for the cartoon to

ridicule the King and declined to comment further.

Minister of

Information Ieng Mouly told the Post the Ministry would not act against

newspapers unless it received complaints from members of the

public.

"Ordinary people who think an article can damage their

credibility or reputation can lodge a complaint and the Ministry will act

accordingly," he said.

But Mouly said newspapers should not generate

stories that can affect the King's credibility and dignity because he is sacred.

MP Yahya said: "Newspapers should be able to criticize the King if he

makes a mistake but they should not ridicule him in cartoons."

The

cartoon's publication coincided with the conclusion of the failed second round

table peace talks organized by King Sihanouk which aimed to bring about a

national reconciliation between the KR and the Royal government.

The

debate over the cartoon is the latest in a series of incidents in which the

government has sought to reassert control over what it sees as an out of hand

free press.

In May Sakal newspaper had a print run confiscated by police

after attempting to run a picutre titled "Why does the King still have longings

for the Khmer Rouge." The picture showed King Sihanouk arm in arm with KR

nominal leader Khieu Samphan.

In June Prum Bayon newspaper was shut down

after running articles considered pro-KR which were deemed insulting to the King

and national leaders, and a threat to national stability.

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