STAFF at Sakal (Universe) complained they were still being intimidated by plain
clothes Funcinpec policemen after the paper had an entire print run and a
reader's letter confiscated for alleged insults to His Majesty King Norodom
Director and Editor in Chief Lach Samrong said his journalists
and visitors to the paper's offices were being followed by policemen, who also
often mounted surveillance of the building off Kampuchea Krom
Khlok Mong, vice editor, added: "They try to follow us on
motorbikes when we leave the office, so we have to try and lose them by driving
The state action against the newspaper followed the publication of
photos and articles considered insulting to His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk.
The move caused an outcry among human rights organizations, protests
from the Khmer Journalists' Association and the intervention of Justice Michael
Kirby, the UN human rights representative for Cambodia.
In a written
reply to the KJA letter Interior Minister You Hockry said the action was carried
out in accordance with the Constitution which prohibits insults to the
Around 15 Funcinpec policemen burst into the Sakal's offices
and confiscated the second half of a reader's letter as it was being pasted on a
page of the May 13 edition. The page was eventually printed with an empty space
under the masthead with the words "Do you understand".
paper, with a circulation of around 18,000 came to the attention of the
authorities with its May 6 edition.
Beside a front page picture of the
King, the newspaper apologized to the monarch but said it was duty-bound to make
Then in its May 10 edition it printed an old picture of King
Sihanouk posing as a revolutionary arm in arm with Khmer Rouge nominal leader
Khieu Samphan. Beside this photo was a picture of the late Lon Nol, the general
who ousted the King in 1970. The headline read: "Listen to the late general's
Underneath was a quote: "The Cambodian people have suffered
from the King's iron rule for 20 centuries." Inside was the first half of what
purported to be a reader's letter reminding readers about the monarch's alleged
Then, after second half of the letter was confiscated,
the paper again courted controversy in its May 17 edition. It reprinted the
photo of the King with Khieu Samphan together with a headline reading "Why does
the King still have longings for the Khmer Rouge? For national reconciliation or
for peace? All people consider?"
Inside the paper ran a competition
asking readers to provide evidence of who was really leading the KR, with a
first prize of $50.
The entire print run of this paper was confiscated by
police at a print works in the capital.
Samrong, who set up the
newspaper in December 1993 with $1,000, said: "The King said he was for freedom
of the press and I wanted to test how far these freedoms go. I will not be
publishing any more articles which criticize the King."
In You Hockry's
letter the Interior Minister says he acted within his powers. He said that
Samrong had ignored repeated warnings not to insult the King and had broken a
promise that he would cease doing so.
Samrong, 26, said it was not his
intention to insult the King but to remind people of the past. He denied the
paper was slanted towards or funded by the Cambodian People's Party as some have
alleged. Speaking in a personal capacity, Samrong said: "If King Sihanouk is
going to continue his relationship there can be no end to the war."
Thuch, chief of cabinet to Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he was unable
to comment on allegations of intimidation to journalists at Sakal.