Local authorities have officially blocked the CNRP from building a television antenna on land it bought in Kandal province, further setting back the party’s attempts to establish a TV station ahead of upcoming elections.
The decision, based on health concerns expressed by 21 nearby families, deals another blow to the beleaguered Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was awarded a broadcast licence as part of a deal to end the political stalemate following the 2013 disputed elections.
Yim Sovann said the move was clearly politically motivated but said the opposition could not afford to contest the ruling, saying he hoped the next location would not present such hurdles.
“The next location will be a location with no one living around, and then if they want to find some pretext maybe they have to say that the monkeys do not want the antenna.”
However, Takhmao town governor Heng Theam yesterday maintained that politics did not play a part in its rejection of the antenna on the parcel of land in Deum Mean commune’s Stung Chrov village.
He said the sub-national administration had complied with government principles by responding to the villagers fears about radiation emanating from the antenna.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency website reports that research from health authorities around the world suggests “there are no established health effects” linked to emissions by broadcast towers.
Asked about the numerous TV antennas built within close proximity to houses in the capital, he said: “Phnom Penh is the issue of Phnom Penh; the issue of Takmao is the issue of Takmao”.
Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia which represents villagers in land disputes against often politically-connected companies, said he doubted such claims.
“You see 100,000 people lose land across the country and you see antennas have been planted inside the city, sometimes on top of the houses, and not many people complain about this,” he said, adding politics clearly played a role.
Stations affiliated with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have long dominated the airwaves, and the CNRP had hoped to get its own station up and running before the end of this year, ahead of the 2017 commune elections.
CNRP lawmakers Eng Chhay Eang and Yem Ponhearith yesterday visited a new potential site for the station though declined to reveal the location at this stage.
Chhay Eang said it was impossible to say when the station might be up and running.
“If it was our decision, we could say when it would begin but for a large number of issues we are not the decision makers – it remains the decision of the authorities.”