Information minister says effort to acquire more spokespeople has been hampered by long-standing human resource limitations.
THE Ministry of Information and the US Embassy on Monday launched the first of two weeklong training sessions designed to teach officials to serve as spokespeople, part of a broader - and so-far unsuccessful - government effort to equip each government ministry with a designated spokesperson.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that the government had hoped to hire spokespeople for all ministries as far back as 1993 but had been unable to find people who could fill the positions.
"The problem we are facing right now is the lack of human resources to fill these positions," Khieu Kanharith said. "We are working to achieve this goal gradually."
He said six ministries currently have spokespeople: information, interior, national defence, foreign affairs, land management, urbanization and construction, and the Council of Ministers. Chhum Socheat was appointed as spokesman for the Ministry of National Defence last week.
The two workshops this month will train a total of 46 officials, some of whom are expected to serve as spokespeople for the police and military police.
With journalists in mind
Khieu Kanharith said he believed the training of more spokespeople would enable the government to more effectively convey its perspective to reporters.
"We want to arrange to have a spokesperson in every ministry because we think that providing information to the public is indispensable," Khieu Kanharith said. "Spokespeople will facilitate the work of journalists."
Several journalists said the government's stated goal of placing spokespeople in all government ministries was a good one.
Mon Sophon, a reporter for Radio Free Asia, said the lack of spokespeople at key ministries had created "difficulties" for reporters.
The problem we are facing right now is the lack of human resources.
"I often work with the low-ranking officers, and they usually tell me to contact their ministers," he said. "I think the minister rarely has enough spare time for interviews with journalists."
A Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) press release issued last week also expressed support for the goal.
CCJ President Pen Samitthy said the hiring of responsible and effective spokespeople would "facilitate the journalists".
Phay Siphan, the spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he believed the presence of more spokespeople would make journalists more likely to contact appropriate and knowledgeable sources.
Presently, he said, "They sometimes ask around without heading to the person who is responsible for the matter at hand. As journalists, they should understand about the duties of different officers".