THE embattled Khmer Journalists Association (KJA) faces a possible leadership impasse
after president Pin Samkhon this month won re-election by the merest of margins.
A bid to scrap the election result and hold a fresh ballot is being threatened, after
Samkhon beat rival candidate Tath Ly Hok by one vote to retain the presidency at
a KJA congress on Jan 5.
Tath Ly Hok - the KJA's first vice-president and deputy editor of the government-owned
Kampuchea newspaper - said he accepted the election result but some of his supporters
"For me, frankly, I tell you I have no problem because I agreed to the result...but
if my supporters are unhappy, there are other ways they can complain."
Hok said a new election was possible, under KJA internal rules, if one-third of the
association's central committee signed a petition calling for a new congress to be
If that happened, he said, "I think I can win."
Hok said that some of his friends had alleged "irregularities" in the Jan
5 election, but he did not believe there had been anything improper.
Meanwhile, Samkhon said he had heard some members were signing a petition but he
had not seen it.
He was not sure whether the petition supporters "want my head" but he said
they had expected Tath Ly Hok to win and "they are disappointed."
Samkhon acknowledged the closeness of the vote was a "message" to him.
He said he had his critics for being "too strict in my job. People don't understand
me when I do anything. Maybe I need to explain more to the people."
But Samkhon said he and Hok, who was re-elected first vice-president after losing
his bid for Samkhon's job, were friends who could work "maturely" together.
Samkhon won 16 votes, Hok got 15, and a third candidate got two votes at the Jan
5 congress. Five of the 38 newspaper, television or radio representatives deemed
eligible to vote were absent.
Allegations of election irregularities are believed to center on representatives
of newspapers which are no longer published - including the Vietnamese-language Tudo,
ordered closed by the government - being allowed to vote.
But both Samkhon and Hok agreed that the election rules allowed all newspapers which
paid their membership fees to vote, even if they were not publishing.
Among those believed to be most unhappy with the election result are Kea Say, who
stood to become vice-president if Hok had won, and dumped KJA secretary-general So
Samkhon - under KJA rule changes made last month making the secretary-general an
appointed, not elected, position - has replaced Naro with the former deputy secretary-general
Naro thrust himself and the KJA into controversy in November with his Angkor Thmei
newspaper article believed to have contributed to Prince Norodom Sirivudh's arrest
Samkhon's treatment of Naro over the article, which both have acknowledged was unethical,
is said to have contributed to dissatisfaction among Naro's friends in the KJA.
But Hok said the Naro affair was only one of several reasons why "many newspapers
are unhappy at Pin Samkhon."
He said Samkhon was accused of using the KJA's headquarters and its equipment to
produce his own newspaper Khmer Ekareach (Khmer Independent), and of engaging in
Hok said some people believed that Samkhon was effectively the secretary-general
of the Democratic Party led by In Tam and that he would stand in the next general
"I myself have seen Mr In Tam come to the headquarters of the KJA to visit him
[Samkhon]. I want Mr Pin Samkhon to think about his actions."
Saying that he expected Samkhon to resign before he began any politicking, Hok added
that "I have no [political] ambitions like that."
Samkhon replied that any newspaper was free to use the KJA's equipment and premises,
and pay for materials they used.
On his political ambitions, Samkhon said he had worked for the Democratic Party in
the past but was now just an ordinary party member.
He said he would "absolutely" resign from the KJA if he ever became an
office-holder in a political party.
"I don't know what will happen next month, or in the next few months...but today
I run a free press [association]."
Meanwhile, Samkhon's re-election has attracted fierce criticism in several newspapers
aligned to the rival League of Cambodian Journalists (LCJ).
A KJA meeting was called this week to discuss preparing an official response to allegations
of election rigging published in newspapers such as the generally pro-government
The KJA has been under considerable pressure, losing half its member organizations
since the LCJ was formed in June in what many observers saw as a politically-motivated
bid to destroy the KJA.