A MERICAN-based supporters and former members of the Lon Nol regime have been
blamed by Palace sources as behind the computer tampering earlier this month of
a Reuters news story quoting the King.
The doctored story - originating
from Reuters Phnom Penh office - set off a chain of angry denials,
culminating with a local paper calling for people to set upon the author with
The King finally cleared Reuters from writing the bogus quote that
Cambodia should give Vietnam "some provinces" in thanks for Vietnam's 1979
overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.
The affair, however, has raised more
widespread concern about the security of worldwide computer links such as
Internet for relaying information.
Reuters spokesmen in Hong Kong, the
head office for the Phnom Penh bureau, said to their knowledge this was the
first such case of such tampering in Asia.
"It's a huge problem... but
it's the same as taking anything off a PC, cutting and pasting it and putting it
up on a noticeboard in your local supermarket. It's forgery, there's nothing you
can do about it," said one Reuters spokesman.
"There was a
political gain in this," he said, "I'm sure it wasn't against us.
just so happened it was a story that had a quote that lent itself to being
"It could have been [other agencies such as] DPA, AFP, AP or
anyone, it just so happened it was us... it looks like somebody was playing
political games with Cambodia."
Reuters had written of the King
acknowleging Cambodia's debt to Vietnam, saying their invasion saved his own
life and that of many more Khmers.
Reuters quoted the King saying:
"'If they had not ousted Pol Pot, everyone would have died - not only me, but
everyone - they would have killed us all," he said in a televised
This original appeared in The Nation newspaper in
However, the bogus story - with a dateline different to that of
a Reuters original - added: "- we should sacrifice some provinces to our brother
The King appeared twice thereafter on national
television, angrily denying the quote.
In a front page editorial, Koh
Santepheap the next day wrote: "Who is black-hearted? In his speech
delivered through national and private televisions on Sept 3, King Norodom
Sihanouk Varman expressed his legitimate reaction, clarifying an article
published in a national newspaper but translated by Reuters agency that King
Sihanouk promised to relinquish land the the Yuon [Vietnamese].
kind of fabricated publication is a serious matter which affects His Majesty who
is sacred for the Khmer people...
"... this kind of cooked-up...
publication is an abuse to the King. Excepting foreigners, this type of insolent
person is a real Khmer Rouge rebel who... use oft-repeated
"Whoever intentionally published [this article] with an aim
to destroy the honor of His Majesty the King deserves people chopping him with
an ax, right at his house, in the face - otherwise the anger will not die."
King Sihanouk's biographer Julio Jeldres said he was faxed the doctored
story from a Cambodian living in California. Six hours later the same story
appeared on the Internet in Australia.
Jeldres said he spent much time
trying to track down the author but in the end "it was a chain... one Cambodian
said he got it from another and so on... I finally gave up, I was getting
"It was obviously from people wanting to make trouble for the
King," he said.
"In the United States there are a lot of people from the
former Lon Nol regime... they are strongly anti-Sihanouk."
same people had in the past caused so much trouble that the King once had to
abandon a meeting in Minneapolis.
Jeldres, who on the request of the King
sent a letter offering the "humblest [Royal] apologies" to the Asian director of
Reuters, said the King was not really concerned about the affair but was
conscious "there were these people around trying to create trouble".
the future he might be more careful when he speaks about subjects as
controversial as this issue, the relationship with Vietnam," he said.
said the King had been very worried about the Reuters staff in Phnom Penh "but
that all seems to have quietened down now".