T HE editor of a highly popular Khmer twice-weekly paper shut down by the
government defended his publication saying it wanted to help "bring the Khmer
Rouge back into society".
The Prum Bayon written and funded by Phnom
Penh University students was ordered to cease publication by the Ministry of
Information on June 7.
Editor Soth Sothea said: "We wrote both good and
bad things about both the government and the Khmer Rouge. We wanted to produce a
paper with a diversity of opinions.
"We believed in political
reconciliation and wanted to bring the KR back into society. We feel the
government shut us down because of a political unwillingness to hear views
contrary to their own.
"If so we consider this a very sad development to
be regretted by both the Cambodian population and the international community. I
hope the international community will encourage a pluralistic society and help
us to reopen.
"The letter ordering us to close down was received by other
newspapers before we received it. The government did not appropriately warn us
before ordering us to close down. They should have done this."
Seng Sokhom said: "It has been rumored the reason the government shut us down
was because we weren't following their political line."
A spokesman for
the Ministry of Information was quoted by Reuters as saying the paper was shut
down because it had used insulting language to describe government leaders, and
had also written articles that jeopardized national security.
release issued by the Ministry of Information, said: "The closure of the Prum
Bayon newspaper was ordered on a review of some legal principles sourced from
the Constitution, King Sihanouk's decree on the establishment of the Royal
Cambodian Government, the press law of the SOC and the Khmer Journalists'
Association code of ethics.
Sokhom said: "The government accuses us of
not receiving authorization to open a newspaper. On March 23 we submitted an
application to the government for permission to publish the newspaper. They
"In line with SOC press law, which allows a newspaper
to start printing one month after submitting an application unless the
government expressly objects, we started publication on April 23."
said: "The government has also charged that the paper is not run by a qualified
person, who has to be at least 25 years old. Technically this is correct but I
will be 25 in a month."
Readers of the paper said it had a diversity of
opinions, was highly amusing and well written, and the 14 issues had been very
popular in Phnom Penh.
Readers say the paper ran controversial articles
concerning the border issue, criticisms against corruption in government, and
differing political viewpoints towards the government and the Khmer
Some of the paper's headlines included: "People have lost their
trust in Funcinpec because they are not following their promises"; "They who
love wars are the Vietnamese"; "They who instigate wars are the puppets of the
Vietnamese"; "The creators of the Indochina Communist Party were those who
killed the Cambodian people"; "Pigheaded Khmer Rouge leaders stall peace
Reuters quoted a journalist who said: "In the past, we have made
attacks on Chea Sim and Hun Sen accusing them of wanting to continue to have
close relationship with Vietnam."
But readers say the paper was not pro
or anti government or pro or anti KR. The papers tongue-in-cheek style is
perhaps summarized by a May 11 article which said: "In our present martial world
there are two major powers who are fiercely fighting for the license to rule the
"The first power is the CPP led by the brave man with the
surname Hun, who has an office in Nam Yang [the Vietnamese term for Phnom Penh].
The second party is called the Democratic Kampuchea party led by the brave man
with the surname Khieu, who has an office in Pin Lay [the reverse of
"The two brave men have been fighting nearly everyday, with
success and failure rotating between them. ... Because of no result The Chief
Monk [King Sihanouk], speaking from his Chinese Palace, ... has invited the two
parties to come for round table talks."
Next to the article is a cartoon
with a KR soldier, dressed in Thai military garb and backed by a Thai overlord,
fighting a Royal Government soldier dressed in Vietnamese military uniform and
backed by a Vietnamese overlord.