THE former financial backer of the Deum Ampil Media Centre has presented her version of the events that led to its abrupt scale-back earlier this month.
Speaking after the official launch of the new Nokor Wat Media Centre, Sieng Chanheng accused Deum Ampil’s former director general, Soy Sopheap, of managing the company’s finances in a reckless manner and accepting bribes from businesses in exchange for favourable coverage.
“Soy Sopheap was not faithful to my company, which was the financial supporter of DAP,” said Sieng Chanheng, also the owner of the Heng Development Company.
On July 1, Soy Sopheap announced that Deum Ampil would suspend operations for Deum Ampil newspaper, Radio FM 93.75 and Morokot magazine, citing a lack of funds. The media centre’s website is still being updated.
He said at the time that he decided to go ahead with the suspension after he was asked by Sieng Chanheng to cut the total expenses of the operations in half, in part by laying off many of his 110 staff members.
Sieng Chanheng has denied asking Soy Sopheap to cut expenses, though she has acknowledged losing tens of thousands of dollars each month on her Deum Ampil investment.
At the launch of the Nokor Wat Media Centre on Friday, she said Deum Ampil’s finances were in order until Soy Sopheap assumed control of them from her daughter, former deputy director general Dim Sopheavy.
At that point, she said, Soy Sopheap began increasing salaries for his preferred employees and entering into arrangements with companies that allowed him to pocket tens of thousands of dollars.
“I always heard rumours that there were some companies or individuals paying money to DAP every month,” she said. “I never wanted a situation where when people paid you money, you wouldn’t write bad things about them.”
Last month, she said, she came across a list of 15 “groups” that had paid Soy Sopheap US$60,000. “I tried to correct him then, but he did not listen to me,” she said.
Soy Sopheap declined to answer questions for this article.
Sieng Chanheng went on to express regret that the two had parted on bad terms. “I like Soy Sopheap, who is brave and has courage,” she said. “That is why I invested in this media organisation with him – he had the knowledge, and I had the money to open DAP.”
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Friday that Prime Minister Hun Sen had requested that his ministry support the Nokor Wat Media Centre as it begins operations. He said this was evidence of the government’s interest in promoting “breaking news that the readers will like to read”.
Sieng Chanheng said Dim Sopheavy would assume the role of editor in chief of the new media centre, but that other top positions had yet to be filled.