The Minister of Information has issued an order banning the broadcast of a remake of “Or Phnom Penh Euy”, a popular song often aired in the lead up to the January 7 anniversary of the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime.
In a letter dated Monday, Minister Khieu Kanharith argued that rewording the lyrics of the original song, which was written by former municipal official Keo Chenda in the early 1980s, was “improper” regardless of the intentions behind the cover version.
“The meaning of the song called “Or Phnom Penh Euy” expresses fully enough the sufferings of the Cambodian people in the Pol Pot regime; the standing up of the patriots to save the nation; the creation of the Kampuchea United Front for National Salvation on December 2, 1978; and the great victory on January 7, 1979, when the nation was liberated and the people met each other again,” the letter stated.
It added: “Phnom Penh is the heart of our country and survived after it was seriously destroyed for three years, eight months and 20 days.”
“Or Phnom Penh Euy”, which translates as “Oh, Phnom Penh”, refers to the capital city as being “representative of the Khmer spirit”.
“Oh, Phnom Penh, I missed you so in the three years I left you, with suffering the enemies separated me from you,” reads an unofficial translation of the original song.
“Oh, Phnom Penh, when I met you again, your suffering was better.”
The new song retains the melody of the original but substitutes in new pop lyrics, according to Khieu Kanharith’s letter, which was sent to radio and television stations nationwide with orders to cease broadcast of the new version “immediately”. The lyrics to the new song could not be obtained yesterday.
San Putheary, director of the Information Ministry’s Audiovisual Department, said “Or Phnom Penh Euy” was part of Cambodia’s “national heritage” and had to be “protected forever”.
“We really won’t allow all the radio and television stations to broadcast the new song with the same music at all,” he said, but declined to answer questions regarding what sort of punishments people who breach the ban would face.
He said officials did not know who had produced the new version of the song.
Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said songs can help teach the younger generation “what happened so they do not do the same thing”.