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Authorities ramp up book raids

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Vendors sell books at stalls along the street in Phnom Penh in 2013. Scott Howes

Authorities ramp up book raids

More raids will be carried out throughout Phnom Penh to seize “unauthorised” books, the capital ’s culture department director Chum Vuthy said.

This follows the confiscation of two books entitled Human Value and Vision for National Reconciliation and Social Restoration.

On Saturday, the Tuol Kork and Daun Penh district authorities, in collaboration with police, seized the copies of the two books from vendors.

They claimed the books – written by the court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) lawyer Yem Ponhearith and featuring political figure Kim Sok, who was recently released from jail – were published without the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ approval.

“Any book displayed [to the public] needs to abide by the law and have its content approved. It applies to all types of book and we monitor this regularly."

“They [the public] are just surprised at the raids because the author of these books just so happens to be a politician,” Vuthy said, denying any political motive for the seizures.

He also said: “When someone wants to publish a book, he needs to pass it to the authorities to check the accuracy of the contents, for example, facts on history. Upon passing the tests, they need to obtain the publishing permit.”

Political analyst Hang Vito claimed that around 1,000 copies of the books have been published. He wondered why the authorities went after the books and confiscated them only now.

“They [copies of the books] have been sold for a year since Kim Sok was sent to jail. Nobody had problems with it. My question now is, why go after them now that he is out of jail?"

“In practice, we obtain a permit by requesting a code from the national library to enable the publishing of our books. Legally speaking, not all books sold in the market require a permit from the ministry as it would take one to two years to obtain,” Vito said.

Vito himself has written no less than 10 books related to politics in various languages. That being said, he indicated his intention to stop writing about politics.

“It’s a pity that we don’t have the freedom to express our opinions. We are restricted and have been watched over like prisoners. Maybe I will switch to business instead.”

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