T HE Khmer Journalist Association has now finally and fully embraced all the subtleties
and nuances of "Cambodian democracy": intrigue, squabbling - and now, joint
Angkor Thmei newspaper editor So Naro - who has done more than most in destablizing
the KJA, including actively campaigning against incumbent president Pin Samkhon -
had the honor of counting the votes in a second presidential election March 16.
Samkhon's initial 16-15 win on Jan 5 was tossed aside because Ly Chandara's Tudo
newspaper - a Samkhon supporter - had been shut down by the government.
First proclaiming that this was most definitely the last election, and "if anyone
wants to complain, complain now," Naro began pulling out the ballots that had
been cast secretly minutes before: "Tat Ly Hok," he said. "Pin Samkhon...,"
Tension mounted as Ly Hok got to 16 votes, just one away from first-past-the-post
victory. The only other candidate, Apsarama magazine editor Kim Vimol, voted for
With one vote to read and the score Ly Hok 16, Samkhon 15, and Vimol one, Naro took
the ballot, read the name and said: "Pin Samkhon."
The place dissolved into loud cheering and laughter. Even Naro - who seemed certain
earlier that Samkhon would have been ousted - cracked a smile.
Samkhon stood up and shook hands with Ly Hok.
"What a similarity!" Samkhon exclaimed in his reference to Cambodia's existing
Ly Hok said: "From now on, we will sign papers like the two Samdech Prime Ministers
[Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen].
"You can say these results were accidental but this is a common victory of all
journalists and the KJA," Ly Hok said.
Samkhon said "This is the best result beyond everyone's expectations. I think
that this draw is better than me winning alone. If I remained president alone, the
opposition group will continue to resist... We have found stability for the association
and for us to return to our work."
KJA's members agreed that the results allowed the association to return to normal
"I want to pull the association toward true professionalism for all journalists
and I don't want to see politics involved with it," Ly Hok said.
However, Naro immediately put pressure on Samkhon and Ly Hok for him to become secretary
Samkhon said the decision on whether or not to appoint Naro - the journalist whose
testimony was vital in Prince Norodom Sirivudh controversially being found guilty
of organized crime - would be made next week when Ly Hok returns from a visit to
"I have difficulty with this. But I risk hoping that his [Naro] return will
help the association, though I do not know the real motivation behind it," he
Other unamed sources within the KJA said that pressure to include Naro in the association
came from "outside", but he refused to elaborate for fear that it would
jeopardize efforts to stabilize the association.
Most members of the KJA are known to be frustrated by Naro's insistence on office.