Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-RFA journalist stirs Chanboth story




Ex-RFA journalist stirs Chanboth story

Ex-RFA journalist Sok Visal (centre) speaks out against his former employer to the press last November in Phnom Penh. On Monday, he echoed claims by the prime minister that his former colleague, Chun Chanboth, was fearful of the US and had asked for protection.
Ex-RFA journalist Sok Visal (centre) speaks out against his former employer to the press last November in Phnom Penh. On Monday, he echoed claims by the prime minister that his former colleague, Chun Chanboth, was fearful of the US and had asked for protection. Hong Menea

Ex-RFA journalist stirs Chanboth story

A former Radio Free Asia staffer added fodder on Tuesday to theories from the premier that radio personality Chun Chanboth was a spy for the Cambodian government and feared that US intelligence officials would kill him if he left the US-based broadcaster.

Former RFA journalist Sok Visal, who also goes by Ratha Visal, claimed in an interview with Fresh News that Chanboth had asked him to organise security guards through a military general while visiting Cambodia in 2017. On that trip, the US-based radio presenter was threatened with arrest by Cambodian officials for allegedly trying to sneak into a Phnom Penh prison to speak to political prisoners.

Visal went public last year, along with his colleague Ouk Savborey, with allegations that RFA owed each of them $28,000 in severance pay after the broadcaster shuttered its Cambodia operations.

His recent statements to Fresh News mirror those made by Prime Minister Hun Sen on the sidelines of an Asean summit in Australia last week, claiming that Chanboth was a spy for the premier, and that he had asked General Mao Sophan for security because he feared the Americans would kill him for leaving the radio broadcaster.

These comments were quickly dismissed by US Ambassador William Heidt, saying that journalists were free to report in America and did not face any such threats. An RFA spokesman described Visal's assertions and the premier's comments as "ridiculous and untrue."

Visal could not be contacted yesterday, but told Fresh News that Chanboth had asked him to arrange bodyguards, who would pick him up from the airport, during a trip to the country last year, but had to change plans last minute. “I am not sure, but he [Chanboth] said they were American forces, so they must be CIA. He [Chanboth] told me they were Americans who were told to pick him up [from the airport],” he said.

He added that he approached Ouk Kimseng, Information Ministry spokesman, to discuss Chanboth’s security concerns but was again told to approach Sophan. Kimseng on Monday confirmed he was contacted by Visal about Chanboth’s situation, without elaborating.

Visal claimed Chanboth wanted to leave the radio broadcaster but was being forced to peddle an anti-Cambodian government stance and feared for his life.

RFA spokesman Rohit Mahajan, who characterized the assertions as "ridiculous and untrue," said the network had extended an invitation to the prime minister to discuss his comments, "if he wishes to explain them and answer questions in the context of an interview.”

A former RFA staffer, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that Visal went to Fresh News to attack and slander Chanboth, saying there was no legitimacy to the claims. “This is just vindictiveness and his hatred toward RFA that he continues to attack the radio broadcaster,” the former staffer said.

This version raises the comment from RFA spokesman and explains the reason a source sought anonymity.

MOST VIEWED

  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • Bill covering dress code draws ire

    Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Several

  • What’s the deal with Cambodia and China’s FTA?

    Cambodia’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China kicks off a series of FTAs in future but for now, critics wonder what else the parties could bring to the table apart from what it already has to date By the end of this year, Cambodia

  • Cambodia, Vietnam exchange border maps amid criticism

    Cambodia and Vietnam formally exchanged border maps on Monday despite criticism from former members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that the Kingdom is losing land in the deal. The two countries said agreement on the border is 84 per cent complete, leaving