C\AMBODIAN journalists of all political stripes say the recent shooting of newspaper
editor Thong Uy Pang has made them fear for their safety during the run-up to the
July 26 elections.
In interviews with the Post, local editors and reporters said that they have all
received threats and are taking extra security precautions.
"It is more likely that some people will take the advantage of the campaign
to commit crimes to shut the mouths of journalists," said Keo Sophorn, 39, the
editor of Chakraval, a newspaper widely seen to be pro-government, although Sophorn
insists it is neutral.
He said some attacks may aim "to sour the environment so that the outside world
will see that Cambodia is not stable, so the election will have to be delayed. Or,
they will create unrest to terrify investors so that they will withdraw from Cambodia
and put the economy into crisis, to put blame on the government."
Ou Sovann, 31, the editor of Samleng Yuvachun Khmer (Voice of Khmer Youth) said:
"I have been very frightened to go out. I always stay at home for my own safety.
I rarely go to public places, and when my friends or relatives invite me to a party
or a wedding ceremony, I apologize to them for not risking to go."
Journalists say the threats usually come by telephone or they find they are being
followed wherever they go.
The editor of the pro-opposition Udom Katei Khmer (Khmer Ideal) said that after his
articles criticized top officials in the government, he received a phone call advising
him not be so strong.
"You are stronger now than before. Are you afraid of any thing?" the caller
Nhek Bun Chhin, 36, a political adviser of Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience),
said: "A few months ago, six people on two motor bikes followed me wherever
I went, and my friends who are in the armed forces told me to be more careful with
Before the fighting last July, Pen Samitthy, 38, the editor of Rasmei Kampuchea (The
Light of Cambodia) left his mobile telephone at home with his wife. An anonymous
caller thought that his wife was his secretary, and asked her to tell Samitthy to
go home immediately because there were problems there.
"This may be a type of threat toward me," said Samitthy. "If I had
gone home, I don't know what would have happened to me on the way."
Five journalists have been killed and many others injured since the 1993 UN-sponsored
election, according to the UN Center for Human Rights. Since then there has been
only one arrest and no successful prosecutions of the attackers.
"With Cambodia preparing for elections on July 26, it is imperative that journalists
are free to practice their profession without fear of reprisal," said the New
York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in a June 10 statement. "Failure
to find Thong Uy Pang's attacker, could have a chilling effect on the press."
In its meeting on May 15, the Council of Ministers formed a committee to oversee
safety and security during the election.
"I don't believe much in the government commitment because so far it has taken
many measures to crack down on crime, but crime is everywhere, not reduced,"
said a journalist who asked not be named.