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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Radio purchase tightens CPP grip on airwaves

Radio purchase tightens CPP grip on airwaves

The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) took control of another radio station,

88 FM, about four months ago, according to local station owners. The radio station

will start officially broadcasting under the new ownership on November 11.

Several broadcasters, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that 88 FM's previous

owner had sold the station in its entirety to Prime Minister Hun Sen for $40,000.

One station manager said the five-kilowatt transmitter at 88 FM radio was originally

bought in 1994 for $40,000 by Ieng Mouly, a former Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party

(BLDP).

After the 1998 national election, Mouly split from BLDP and set up his own party.

That party continued to operate the radio station while sharing operating costs with

Hun Sen.

At some point Mouly sold the business to another radio operator, who then handed

it over to Hun Sen within the last four months, said the station manger. Reportedly,

the owner never actually collected the money from the sale.

One broadcaster said Kham Poon, the personal interpreter for Hun Sen, who also owns

TV3 and 103 FM, would manage 88 FM.

But Poon, when contacted by telephone on November 3, said he didn't know about the

radio station and hung up the phone.

The new radio station is likely to expand the CPP's domination of the country's media

since it already has seven television and radio stations. Its political rivals have

often been denied access to the nation's airwaves.

Seng Sarun, an official in the media communication department of the Ministry of

Information, said that seven television and 19 radio stations operated in the country.

He refused to discuss their political affiliations.

"I will not talk about politically owned television and radio stations,"

said Sarun. "I can only talk about which are state and privately owned."

However, the daily broadcasts of most television and radio shows indicated strong

political leanings.

Thieng Vandarong, a Funcinpec deputy secretary general at the Ministry of Information,

told the Post that at least four radio stations expressed what he called a "democratic

voice" that were not aligned with the CPP.

Both the CPP and Funcinpec own media outlets. The Funcinpec party controls four stations.

The most prominent is Ta Prohm radio, which broadcasts from Phnom Penh and reaches

parts of the country surrounding the capital.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has repeatedly petitioned the Ministry of Information

for its own radio station, but has been denied one on the ground that no frequencies

are available.

However, the ostensibly independent radio station, Mom Sonando's Beehive Radio 105

FM, often broadcasts opposition sentiments. Its transmitter does not reach far beyond

the city limits.

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