Government mouthpiece Fresh News on Tuesday leaked an audio recording of a conversation purportedly between Radio Free Asia presenter Chun Chanboth and army General Mao Sophan, where the latter describes guests on his program saying a CNRP government would have been more dictatorial than the current ruling party.
The recording is only a short 90-second clip of an alleged conversation Chanboth had with Sophan when he visited the country in March of 2017, a visit during which the Cambodian government sought to arrest him. It follows other unsubstantiated claims from Prime Minister Hun Sen suggesting that Chanboth was in fact a spy for the ruling party, and an account from a disgruntled ex-RFA staffer shortly thereafter claiming Chanboth feared the US would assassinate him – claims flatly denied by his employer.
In the audio released Tuesday, Chanboth refers to a show he hosted featuring slain political commentator Kem Ley in which Ley said it was lucky that the opposition did not win the 2013 election, because then-Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy would have been more dictatorial than Hun Sen.
“We are lucky that the opposition did not win the election, if the … party won the election, we don’t know what the country would become now,” Chanboth says, referring to the Ley’s comments.
The recording is just the latest in a deluge of leaked private conversations, most of which have been perceived as damaging to opposition figures. The motive behind the latest clip’s release was unclear, and it is difficult to decipher the context of the conversation. Chanboth’s syntax at times seems clipped and jumbled, raising questions as to whether the audio was selectively edited.
The Fresh News article claims that Chanboth’s meeting and discussion with Sophan violated RFA’s internal regulation preventing reporters from conducting secret meetings.
Fresh News last week claimed that Chanboth had asked Sophan to arrange for bodyguards during his visit last year because he feared he may be murdered by the US, but was instead escorted from the airport by American CIA officials. The story was based on an account by a former RFA staffer embroiled in a dispute with the broadcaster over back pay.
Sophan could not be reached yesterday and RFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though it has previously denied the ex-staffer’s account.