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Former Khmer Rouge thirsting for outside news

Former Khmer Rouge thirsting for outside news

P AILIN - Considering themselves Cambodian citizens with full rights after the split

from the Khmer Rouge hardliners in August, Pailin residents are seeking access to

news featuring life in other parts of Cambodia.

Chan Moeun, 23, said that he wanted Phnom Penh to expand radio and television broadcasts

to Pailin because there was nothing to hear from the KR radio, except for continued

propaganda and denunciations of the DNUM dissidents.

"Please ask the government to increase [radio and TV broadcast] signals to this

place. We want to know how development and life are in Phnom Penh and other parts

of the country," Moeun said.

Before the breakaway, he said the people were under strict bans from reading newspapers

published in Phnom Penh. If anyone was caught doing so they would be accused of serving

"the policy of the puppet government".

Moeun recalled how a friend who worked with UNTAC in Pailin before the election used

to bring him newspapers from Phnom Penh.

He said the friend would fold them in with his clothes to avoid being caught. Once

delivered, he said he had to fold the paper into a small size again and cover it

with a piece of paper while reading.

"We passed it on from one to another until it got mangled and the characters

faded away. We would rewrite them in pen so we could read the newspaper again,"

said Kem Pisei, Moeun's colleague.

Among newspapers they had read, Moeun and Pisei could only remember Reasmei Kampuchea

which they said usually came not in a complete copy, but in torn-out portions that

used to line fruit baskets from markets in Thailand.

"We would put them in the sunlight to dry them. Sometimes, there was news about

other countries, about poverty in Africa. But we wanted to read news about Cambodia,"

Moeun said.

According to Moeun and Pisei, the guerrilla radio is a truck containing equipment

provided to the KR by China.

After Pailin - former home to KR clandestine radio - came under attack three years

ago, the truck was moved to the hardliners' jungle hide-out in Anlong Veng, they

said.

Moeun and Pisei said tunning in to The Voice of America was also illegal, but people

could watch Thai television which was easy to intercept.

"When the word "Khmer" was heard on Thai TV, we would quickly turn

our attention [to the TV] although we didn't really understand what the news was

all about," Moeun said.

"We are in our country but we know more about the neighbors. What a shame,"

he said.

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