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Hayes sells paper, soul

Dear Editor,

Phelim Kyne's "CIDA plan slammed for political bias" (Phnom Penh Post 10/8,

13-26 April, 2001, p. 1) is the filthiest piece of pseudo-journalistic hack work

and character assassination I have seen in years, except in some of the local press

which is alleged to specialize in that sort of work for pecuniary advantage.

It also seems to mark an ideological shift back toward a position many suspected

when PPP was founded, but which most of us over the years believed Michael Hayes

was trying to avoid, by keeping his pages open to writing of varying opinions. That

meant, of course, that opinion pieces should remain where they belong, in editorials

and letters, or clearly labeled as opinion pieces, not presented as news stories.

Cambodia does not lack newsworthy subjects, and there is no need for this type of

creative "man bites dog" non-news.

A "storm of protest" is alleged over Longmuir's appointment from "opposition

legislators, human rights workers and representatives of civil society". Who

is cited? Only, by name, one opposition politician; or does Peter Shier, who in his

career in Cambodia was openly a propagandist for FUNCINPEC, fit this category too?

Two human rights workers, or possibly representatives of civil society (it is not

clear which hat Kyne wants them to wear here) cited by name are extremely circumspect.

Lao Mong Hay is even said to have defended Longmuir's use of his alleged close relationship

with government leaders, and Chea Vannath adopts a wait and see attitude.

And what do the anti-Longmuir people say? That, according to Longmuir's wife, he

liked Cambodia so much he hoped to retire here. How utterly contrary to democracy

and human rights. That he was friendly with Prime Minister Hun Sen and adopted a

positive position toward the Cambodian government. Is that an illegitimate position

for an ambassador? Do they imagine that ambassadors should give support to minority

factions trying to overthrow the government? Certainly not when an opposition faction

espouses a racist ideology of a type which Longmuir's country, along with others,

once fought a World War to oppose. Peter Shier should take heed here. Moreover, according

to Shier, Longmuir's views were those of other ambassadors.

"After the 1997 coup [to quote Shier's outdated language], the great majority

of Phnom Penh's ambassadors had sided with the CPP, especially Hun Sen". Why

did the PPP not give weight to their opinions of Longmuir in assessing his worth

for his new post?

In my own experience, the views imputed to Longmuir by Shier and PPP's anonymous

chorus are widespread, and since 1997 increasingly widespread, among the knowledgeable

international community, including the ambassadors chided by Shier. This could have

been the nucleus of a real news story, for it has never been adequately reported.

If most of the ambassadors agreed with Longmuir, who are the anonymous diplomats

who allege that Longmuir's conduct in 1997 "made a mockery of the...National

Assembly", or that his "expressions of political partiality... went far

beyond the demands of realpolitik", or that he "never showed any interest

in developing a functional democracy", or that he "turned a blind eye"

to human rights problems? It might be interesting if their identities could be exposed

and compared with the ambassadors who agreed with Longmuir. At least the PPP might

have pressed them for exactly what Longmuir said or did to mock the Assembly, or

go beyond realpolitik (this remark in itself deriving, perhaps in Kyne's imagination,

from a gratuitous personal insult by Shier), or against a functioning democracy.

As it stands none of this is worth the paper on which it is printed. I ignore the

more personal slander, which the PPP should also have ignored, coming from sources

which make that a specialty.

Over the last few years Michael Hayes has on occasion said that he wished to sell

the Phnom Penh Post. Now I see that he has succeeded; and it is not only a newspaper

which has been sold.

- Michael Vickery



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