Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Official warns ex-RFA staffers about continuing to work in Cambodia



Official warns ex-RFA staffers about continuing to work in Cambodia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia Daily Deputy Publisher Deborah Krisher-Steele speaks last week at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Japan. Photo supplied

Official warns ex-RFA staffers about continuing to work in Cambodia

Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng on Friday made a thinly veiled threat to jail Radio Free Asia reporters if they continued to work in the Kingdom, following the broadcaster’s announcement last week that it had ceased in-country operations.

The outlet shut down its Cambodian operations after its reach was severely limited by the government’s recent shuttering of more than 30 frequencies, many of which broadcast RFA shows. It was also under pressure from the Finance Ministry for allegedly failing to pay taxes and for being unlicensed.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Kimseng seemed to lash out at the broadcaster, saying he would not acknowledge any media requests from RFA henceforth, while criticising the outlet for continuing to “work in the dark”.

“I do not care whether there is RFA or not. So please do not tell me ‘I am from RFA’, because you have announced that you will stop working in Cambodia,” he said.

Kimseng claimed the broadcaster wanted to “conceal” its reporters’ work, even calling them “spies”, and added that doing so would warrant legal action. Kimseng’s threat was later supported by Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

“In the light, we already find it difficult to discuss with them. So what about when they work in the dark?” he said. “If they want to work in the dark, they have to be responsible for themselves before the law.”

Kimseng went on to dismiss RFA’s reportage over two decades as “exaggeration” aimed at projecting Cambodia as “negative and bad”.

According to the outlet, its reporters’ contracts in Cambodia had been terminated but it will continue to report on the country with the use of “a trusted network of sources” from the Washington, DC, bureau.

RFA spokesman Rohit Mahajan said yesterday the broadcaster was appalled at the “blatant threats” made against its former staffers.

“All former RFA staff in Cambodia were under contract due to expire but given the relentless crackdown on independent voices and the free press, we essentially terminated those employment relationships effective the day our office closed,” he said, via email.

“In declaring RFA illegal despite having never issued a tax bill, the government is basically admitting that its inquiry – with which we cooperated at every step – is nothing more than a thin pretext to harass and intimidate.”

The Tax Department also sent a letter on Friday to the Cambodia Daily asking its management to clarify a statement made by Deputy Publisher Deborah Krisher-Steele that she had been coerced into signing a conciliatory letter to Hun Sen requesting the reopening of the paper.

If she did not do so her husband and company Director Douglas Steele would be arrested, her assistant was allegedly told by Soy Sopheap, the owner of a different newspaper.

Both are currently banned from leaving the country and face criminal charges, along with founder Bernard Krisher, for failing to pay an “exorbitant” $6.3 million tax bill.

“This matter should be between us, Soy Sopheap and the prime minister and it has nothing to do with the Tax Department. If this was a ruse by Soy Sopheap then I feel badly both for the prime minister and us for being bamboozled,” she wrote via email.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Phnom Penh underpass opens to ease traffic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced a temporary opening of the 488m underpass at the Chaom Chao roundabout in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, which was recently completed to connect traffic from National Road 4 to Russian Federation Blvd. The move is to reduce

  • ‘No chance Cambodia booted out of ASEAN’

    A group of former and current Cambodian diplomats on Tuesday fired back at retired Singaporean diplomat Bihalari Kausikan after he proposed that ASEAN dismiss Cambodia and Laos from the bloc. In an open letter, the Cambodian diplomats said Kausikan’s remarks were made from a

  • Woman seeks answers after arrest of American partner

    Filipina Lalaine de Guzman, 48, is demanding answers for the detention of her American partner by Cambodian immigration officers after he was arrested at their home almost 90 days ago. She said without an arrest warrant or proffering any criminal charges, Stephen Sidney Greatsinger, 56, is being detained

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital