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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Internet tampering had political bias

Internet tampering had political bias

A MERICAN-based supporters and former members of the Lon Nol regime have been

blamed by Palace sources as behind the computer tampering earlier this month of

a Reuters news story quoting the King.

The doctored story - originating

from Reuters Phnom Penh office - set off a chain of angry denials,

culminating with a local paper calling for people to set upon the author with

axes.

The King finally cleared Reuters from writing the bogus quote that

Cambodia should give Vietnam "some provinces" in thanks for Vietnam's 1979

overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

The affair, however, has raised more

widespread concern about the security of worldwide computer links such as

Internet for relaying information.

Reuters spokesmen in Hong Kong, the

head office for the Phnom Penh bureau, said to their knowledge this was the

first such case of such tampering in Asia.

"It's a huge problem... but

it's the same as taking anything off a PC, cutting and pasting it and putting it

up on a noticeboard in your local supermarket. It's forgery, there's nothing you

can do about it," said one Reuters spokesman.

"There was a

political gain in this," he said, "I'm sure it wasn't against us.

"It

just so happened it was a story that had a quote that lent itself to being

doctored.

"It could have been [other agencies such as] DPA, AFP, AP or

anyone, it just so happened it was us... it looks like somebody was playing

political games with Cambodia."

Reuters had written of the King

acknowleging Cambodia's debt to Vietnam, saying their invasion saved his own

life and that of many more Khmers.

Reuters quoted the King saying:

"'If they had not ousted Pol Pot, everyone would have died - not only me, but

everyone - they would have killed us all," he said in a televised

address'."

This original appeared in The Nation newspaper in

Bangkok.

However, the bogus story - with a dateline different to that of

a Reuters original - added: "- we should sacrifice some provinces to our brother

Vietnamese...".

The King appeared twice thereafter on national

television, angrily denying the quote.

In a front page editorial, Koh

Santepheap the next day wrote: "Who is black-hearted? In his speech

delivered through national and private televisions on Sept 3, King Norodom

Sihanouk Varman expressed his legitimate reaction, clarifying an article

published in a national newspaper but translated by Reuters agency that King

Sihanouk promised to relinquish land the the Yuon [Vietnamese].

"This

kind of fabricated publication is a serious matter which affects His Majesty who

is sacred for the Khmer people...

"... this kind of cooked-up...

publication is an abuse to the King. Excepting foreigners, this type of insolent

person is a real Khmer Rouge rebel who... use oft-repeated

language...

"Whoever intentionally published [this article] with an aim

to destroy the honor of His Majesty the King deserves people chopping him with

an ax, right at his house, in the face - otherwise the anger will not die."

King Sihanouk's biographer Julio Jeldres said he was faxed the doctored

story from a Cambodian living in California. Six hours later the same story

appeared on the Internet in Australia.

Jeldres said he spent much time

trying to track down the author but in the end "it was a chain... one Cambodian

said he got it from another and so on... I finally gave up, I was getting

nowhere."

"It was obviously from people wanting to make trouble for the

King," he said.

"In the United States there are a lot of people from the

former Lon Nol regime... they are strongly anti-Sihanouk."

Jeldres said

same people had in the past caused so much trouble that the King once had to

abandon a meeting in Minneapolis.

Jeldres, who on the request of the King

sent a letter offering the "humblest [Royal] apologies" to the Asian director of

Reuters, said the King was not really concerned about the affair but was

conscious "there were these people around trying to create trouble".

"In

the future he might be more careful when he speaks about subjects as

controversial as this issue, the relationship with Vietnam," he said.

He

said the King had been very worried about the Reuters staff in Phnom Penh "but

that all seems to have quietened down now".

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