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Bias claim draws online jeers

CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun (left) and opposition lawmaker Son Chhay debate at an RFA-organised forum in Phnom Penh
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun (left) and opposition lawmaker Son Chhay debate at an RFA-organised forum in Phnom Penh. RFA

Bias claim draws online jeers

An audio clip in which National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun can be heard losing his temper on a Radio Free Asia debate show went viral yesterday, with some commenters calling his behaviour shameful, while others rated the segment highly for its comedic value.

The clip, which was posted late on Sunday night, had been shared on Facebook, blogs and Twitter by thousands of users.

In it, Vun can be heard berating an announcer for being biased during a program billed as a legal debate between him and opposition lawmaker-elect Son Chhay. When the moderator, Chun Chanboth, begins reading aloud laws that appear to support Chhay’s position, Vun grows furious. Twice, after repeatedly exceeding the allotted time and speaking over the moderator, operators are forced to cut his microphone.

“This is not the National Assembly,” Chanboth, who is deputy director of RFA Khmer Service, warned Vun after he refused to cede the floor.

In retort, Vun accused him of “biased management”.

The pair had appeared on RFA to debate the legalities of forming a National Assembly with fewer than 120 lawmakers present. Prime Minister Hun Sen last week announced such a move would be legal, amid talk of a possible opposition boycott come opening session.

On Facebook, the clip drew hundreds of comments from furious listeners.

“You embarrassed all Cambodian citizens and [the] CPP as a whole to have you as a representative to run in this nation,” wrote Petra Pov.

“In the name of parliament officer, speaking like a gangster,” said Chanly Srun. “I have laughed many times during this discussion.”

Speaking to the Post yesterday, Vun defended his comments, accusing the station of bias.

“RFA is not neutral and is unjust. By virtue, the organiser must stay in the middle and must not behave in favour of one side,” said Vun, who appears to have lost his Prey Veng seat based on preliminary returns.

RFA, along with fellow foreign government-funded radio stations, has come under fire in the past for programming deemed pro-opposition, and the government has sought to suspend it before.

Chanboth said yesterday that Vun reached out to RFA asking for the airtime and complied only on the condition that another party joined the debate.

“It’s not strange that he accused the RFA of bias, but the truth has been revealed. I’m just a referee. When I read out laws [Sunday] night, it wasn’t different from what Son Chhay raised, so it seemed we have the same voice.

However, I think it’s his opinion, and only listeners can judge us.”

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