Local broadcaster ABC Radio launched a bizarre campaign against Radio Free Asia (RFA) yesterday, accusing the US-funded radio station of requesting that the United States demand the repayment of Lon Nol-era debts owed by the Cambodian government.
The campaign by the station – which has courted controversy before – included driving around in a truck emblazoned with a slogan alleging that RFA “supports the US to ask money from Cambodians”.
“We want our Khmer People to join peaceful protests against RFA Khmer,” an ABC presenter announced in a broadcast live-streamed on Facebook.
In the stream, the station justified the broadside by pointing to an article posted on January 21 in which RFA paraphrases analyst Meas Ny as saying that “as long as the US still considers Cambodia’s democracy as backward . . . the debt cancellation . . . will not be considered by the new US president”.
Cambodia owes about $445 million for debts incurred during the Lon Nol regime’s losing war against the Khmer Rouge.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly requested the cancellation of the debt, most recently to new US President Donald Trump. He said at the time he was being “charitable” by not asking for reparations for the 2.75 million tonnes of ordnance the US dropped on Cambodia from 1965 to 1973.
Director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies Moeun Chhean Nariddh said that in the 1990s pro-government media and pro-opposition media often attacked each other, but those hostilities had cooled.
“What ABC Radio did is not according to the duty of professional journalists,” he said.
ABC Radio owner Seng Bunveng, known as Aja A, could not be reached. RFA’s Chi Vita said the station was awaiting an official response from their US headquarters.
David Josar, deputy spokesman at the US Embassy, said the US would like to resolve the matter of the debts, but “additional discussions are needed before we are able to move forward”.