Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM takes aim at Post, analyst

PM takes aim at Post, analyst

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the National University of Management’s graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photo supplied
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the National University of Management’s graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photo supplied

PM takes aim at Post, analyst

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday claimed to have an audio recording of an interview between a Post journalist and an opposition source, which circumstances suggest could have been obtained illegally.

The premier made the remarks during a speech at a graduation ceremony on the capital’s Koh Pich, during which he also criticised prominent political analyst Meas Ny, who yesterday said he felt “very anxious” about being singled out.

Hun Sen claimed he had obtained a recording of comments by Cambodia National Rescue Party chief whip Son Chhay about the opposition’s decision this week to not attend parliament, prior to them appearing in yesterday’s edition of The Post and suggested he had a person inside the newsroom.

“When The Phnom Penh Post interviewed you, [The Post] sent your original audio to me . . . yesterday,” he said, holding up yesterday’s edition of Post Khmer.

“Don’t forget, inside The Phnom Penh Post there is my person.”

There is no evidence of any collusion between Post staff and the premier. The circumstances surrounding the interview, however, suggest that if an audio recording was obtained, it would have, of necessity, been accessed illegally.

The interview with Chhay was conducted on a reporter’s personal phone, and audio of the conversation was not distributed. Comments were filed for publication and edited as per regular newsroom procedure.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday denied that the state monitored journalists’ communications and refused to explain why the premier had boasted of having a person “inside” The Post.

“We don’t monitor anything, it’s not necessary to monitor anything, but we just learn from when you print the newspaper, that’s enough,” he said.

The government has denied it taps phones, which is illegal unless permitted by a “legitimate authority”, according to a 2015 telecommunications law widely criticised for giving the state broad snooping powers.

But the recent leak online of a covertly recorded phone conversation said to feature CNRP lawmaker Ho Vann speaking with a mistress, and a similar leak last year that revealed an alleged affair by opposition leader Kem Sokha, have fuelled concerns that communications are being monitored.

During his speech yesterday, the premier appeared particularly upset with Chhay’s defence of the opposition’s decision to skip parliament.

Chhay had said the party would not attend votes it saw as negative, such as Tuesday’s ballot to rewrite the assembly’s internal regulations to strip the CNRP of its status as the parliament’s minority group, which was yesterday endorsed by the Constitutional Council.

Yesterday, the premier – who had already vowed to block the opposition’s plans to summon three ministers to parliament in response to their absence – doubled down on his criticism, warning Chhay he could face “arrest” if he made any statements that ignored the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

Hun Sen then turned his attention to political analyst Meas Ny who, in an interview with the Cambodia Daily published yesterday, noted that blocking the CNRP from summoning ministers to parliament violated the Constitution, which enshrines lawmakers’ rights to call officials to the assembly.

“I know the Constitution. I do not hold a PhD degree, but I am the father of doctors since not less than two of my children hold PhDs,” Hun Sen said yesterday, later adding: “Meas Ny, I would send a message to you, to not go too far”.

Contacted yesterday, Ny said he was rattled by the comments, and worried for his safety.

“As a person trained as a social scientist, it is hard for me to close my mouth, but I have to be careful to maintain my analysis but also keep myself safe,” he said.

Deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson, noting last year’s murder of political analyst Kem Ley, yesterday said the premier’s singling out of Meas Ny was “chilling” and a “direct” threat.

“Every time he opens his mouth these days, PM Hun Sen shows his dictatorial, rights-abusing character in a way that should frighten anyone concerned about the protection of human rights and preservation of democracy in Cambodia,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 foreigners in Cambodia, the bulk being from the UK, have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly them out of the Kingdom. The petition is targeted at 15,000 foreigners. Among them are nearly 200 Europeans, the majority

  • Cellcard announces Cambodia’s first use of 5G to help Kingdom during Covid-19

    Cellcard on Friday announced Cambodia’s first use of 5G for a telemedicine service at four locations across Phnom Penh to help the Kingdom’s most critically ill during the Covid-19 outbreak. Cellcard, which is the only 100 per cent Cambodian-owned and "Proudly Khmer" mobile network

  • Health ministry warns against using virus-testing machines

    The Ministry of Health has threatened legal action against anyone who publicised their test results after using COVID-19 rapid testing machines. The ministry said such machines were not even approved or recognised for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It said test the results

  • Former CNRP activist nabbed for offering online English classes

    Authorities detained a high school teacher in Kampong Chhnang province on Thursday after he was caught conducting online classes despite the fact that schools had been ordered to close temporarily to prevent Covid-19 infections. Keo Thai teaches at Boribo High School in Kampong Chhnang and

  • National Assembly approves two coal-fired power plants

    The National Assembly (NA) unanimously approved draft laws paving the way for the construction of two coal-fired power plants worth $1.665 billion to supply 100 per cent of electricity required in the Kingdom by 2025. An NA member said at the session that the plants will be located