Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Editor defends banned paper

Editor defends banned paper

Editor defends banned paper

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."

Publisher

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.

A press

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

never responded."

"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."

Sokhom

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

Rouge.

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

talks".

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

martial world."

"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

Pailin]."

"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.

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