CRITICAL EDITOR IN STABLE CONDITION
Pro-Hun Sen editor Thong Uy Pang says itís safer to
be an opposition journalist.
IN all the confusion surrounding the recent attack on Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace)
editor Thong Uy Pang one thing is clear: the incident appears to have attracted more
high-level attention than many before it.
The difference between investigations into Uy Pang's non-fatal shooting and other
attacks was like "night and day", said a foreign human rights worker. "More
so than any killing. More so than the grenade attack in March of 1997. More so than
the extra-judicial killings after the coup.
"There were at least 25 officers at the scene of the crime within minutes of
the shooting. They were well-equipped. Not standard crime police. This was the A-team,
not the B-team. The real investigators."
At Post press time, no one had been arrested in connection with the June 8 attack
at Wat Tuek Thla, in which Uy Pang was shot in both shoulders and one of his bodyguards
Khoun Saphan, chief of criminal investigation of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police,
said he was following several leads, but he refused to elaborate.
"We are hopeful the criminal will be arrested," he said, adding his officers
would continue combing hospitals and private clinics looking for the attacker, who
was allegedly shot and wounded by one of Uy Pang's bodyguards before escaping by
motorcycle with an accomplice.
Gen Net Savoeun, head of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, has taken a personal interest
in the case. State-owned national television, TVK, has quoted him saying the shooting
And the ministries of interior and information have issued strong statements announcing
the attack was intended to intimidate journalists and poison the pre-election atmosphere.
The controversial editor noted he has allies in high places. Senior government figures
visited him in his highly-guarded hospital room, and after surgery to repair his
wounds he received a telephone call from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen who was concerned
about his recovery.
But Uy Pang also has enemies - by his own admission, many of them.
His own theory is that his attacker is "a political enemy of Hun Sen... If I
was not pro-Hun Sen, but pro-Sam Rainsy or pro-Ranariddh, I would not have problems,"
he claimed, insisting he has always faced more threats than his media colleagues
who support the opposition.
Koh Santepheap, which claims a daily circulation of 25,000, is widely considered
to be a pro-CPP paper, supportive of the Second Prime Minister.
However, the controversial editor is also known for his attacks on CPP supporters
and senior business people. That means those who are trying to assign a motive for
the shooting have many different directions to explore.
"It would be foolish for anyone to speculate. He has criticized everyone, including
Hun Sen, [CPP President] Chea Sim and [National Police Chief] Hok Lundy," said
one western observer.
But several observers - both foreign and Cambodian - speculate the editor may have
been a target of internal CPP animosity, after writing articles critical of figures
within the party.
"If I see anyone doing something wrong, I write about their mistakes,"
said Uy Pang, adding he rarely leaves his home because of death threats.
In October 1997, two grenades were thrown at Uy Pang's home. No one was injured and
no one was arrested.
In December 1994, Koh Santepheap reporter Sao Chandara, 27, was murdered in Kampong
Cham, while gathering information about illegal logging. RCAF Lt Col Sath Soeun was
charged with the crime, but acquitted in court and released.
Uy Pang is offering US$10,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the
arrest of his attacker. The national police have offered a 1 million riel ($250)