In Cambodia, when you introduce yourself to a source you have to tell them
clearly the name of your paper, otherwise you will be asked to repeat it. There
are more than 200 newspapers in Cambodia.
Most of them are believed to favor one political side or another. The source really
wants to know the name of your organization so they can guess what political
party you are from and they can level their tone for the interview.
"What is the Phnom Penh Post...What party does the Phnom Penh Post newspaper
support?" most people asked me.
I had to answer this question first, otherwise sources would not let me interview
them, including government officials, civilians, former KR, and even some monks.
For instance, when I interviewed Ta Mok's former KR cook in Pailin in 1999, the questions
were asked strongly.
"Phnom Penh Post!...What is it?" she asked.
"Phnom Penh Post is the name of a newspaper published in English,"
"Oh kaset americ," meaning an American's newspaper, she looked surprised.
Some people when they learned that the Post is an English language newspaper described
the Post as "Kaset antarak cheat" or "international press". They stopped
suspecting the reporter because they believed that foreign language newspapers
But Ta Mok's cook was not easy. She needed to double check.
"What party is the Phnom Penh Post from, Funcinpec?" she added.
I tried to explain to her about the difference between the operations of the Post
and Khmer newspapers.
She looked at me in astonishment and calmly complained, "but people say all
newspapers have their own political party."
That was not the first time I heard such questions from my interviewees. Sometimes
I felt annoyed.
So, it was interesting that the reporter who wanted to interview the cook was
being interviewed by the cook!
I learned a lot at the Post on how to cover stories, interview and write features.
I learned how to report responsibly. The people who edited my articles were professional.
They did not twist the contents of my article and they did not steal my byline.
But one thing I did not like at the Post was the publishing frequency. It was two
weeks long. Sometimes my stories became decayed or killed by competitors.
I wish the Phnom Penh Post would publish weekly.
ñCheath was a Post reporter from Sep 1996 to Jul 2000. He now works for Radio
Free Asia in Bangkok.