AS is the case in the most democratic countries, the press law provisions of the
Kingdom of Cambodia include protection from insult, calumny, defamation and libel
with malicious intent to affect dignity and create prejudice.
In accord with Article 10 of this law, I want to say the following to the readers
of the article published the 30 January 1998 by the Phnom Penh Post entitled "EU
says Ranariddh guilty" and copied by several Khmer newspapers.
It is impossible to reply to such article, unless one is ready to stoop down to the
The article is a mixture of malicious interpretations and misquotations of my writings
and words, not to mention insults and anonymous quotations reaching a high level
of libel. The author reorganized the record of a discussion with me - which was not
presented to me as either an interview or as the preparation of an article about
me - to form the context for the points he wants to make.
Cambodians, Europeans and Americans have told me that they see this article as an
exercise of intellectual dishonesty and rudeness. And, as I am, they are surprised
that this kind of journalism is published by a newspaper which used to give us a
model of how to exchange ideas in conflict. As one person told me, this article,
which is full of aggressiveness, looks like settling of scores. And perhaps the readers
of the Post will be surprised, as I was, to learn that the article was circulating
among the Bangkok embassies of several European countries even before the Post issue
Let me explain one example among many of the kinds of manipulation of which I am
the victim. This example is provided by the title. The EU acronym is usually used
to refer to the European Union as an institution. As I have said to the author of
this article, I never had the intention to speak on behalf of the EU, and I have
not the right to do that.
I have never written that Prince Ranariddh is guilty. This is a word which has a
legal sense. However,
based on many quotations from both Prime Ministers published by the Post during the
first six months of 1997, I wrote that Prince Ranariddh was negotiating with the
Khmer Rouge and he was asking for an amnesty for Khieu Samphan. Who can deny this
fact? This policy was rejected and objected to by the Second Prime Minister in many
statements. Who can deny this fact? According to the 1993 political agreement creating
the coalition and imposing consensus, to negotiate with the Khmer Rouge outside of
an agreement between the two Prime Ministers was illegal. In 1996 there was an agreement.
In 1997, no. This is not an opinion. This is a pure observation of facts.
In another example, the author wrote, "[Jennar] conceded that the
remaining charges against the Prince should be decided by the 'independent Cambodian
judiciary'." His phrasing means that I believe or have defended that the Cambodian
judiciary is independent. People familiar with Cambodian politics will realize all
the political implications of such a position. However, in reality I do not believe,
and have not said or written, that the Cambodian judiciary is independent. On the
contrary, in my 16 January article which the Post article cites, I wrote that, "...It
remains to be proved by the Government if such a fair trial is possible."
I will not go further into detail here, though I would be glad to share many other
examples with people who are interested. I debate only with people able to respect
the values on which the freedom of expression is based including, above all, human
dignity. If the freedom of the press is used to destroy the fundamental values from
which it takes its legitimacy, it loses that legitimacy. The author of this article,
those who have inspired him, and the publisher, have shown how they deal with such
I have consulted jurists and lawyers. Their opinion is unanimous. In the most liberal
western democracy, this article would be strongly condemned by a tribunal. In Belgium,
my country, I would have asked the judiciary to protect my rights.
In Cambodia, it is impossible for me to do that. As I showed above, I have said and
I have written that the judiciary cannot be trusted because it is not independent.
Despite the very difficult situation I am facing due to the lack of legal means to
protect my rights, I will remain consistent with my evaluation of the Cambodian judiciary.
And I do not want to give to the government the opportunity to enjoy the closure
of an opposition newspaper as a consequence of a judgment protecting my rights. The
shame is that the author and the publisher of this article knew that. They feel free
to dishonor my reputation and to jeopardize my professional activities.
But they are unable to escape another judgment: that of the readers. I trust the
people who know me, who know my whole work, who know that I am trying to understand
Cambodia without passion and prejudice and that I am trying with good faith to present
the most accurate image of the country.
It is true that sometimes, facing the unbalanced articles of certain journalists,
I feel obliged to express more about what they distort or hide. And this, maybe,
could give hasty readers the impression that I am joining one side. But I have no
doubt that fair readers of my writings recognize that I am trying to watch Cambodia
honestly. They know that I have no connection with a clan, a group, a party, a church,
an ideology or a religion. They know that I am an independent researcher. They know
that I am not "politically correct." They are the best judges of those
who wrote, inspired, promoted - in a cowardly anonymous way - and published this
I am trusting that a fair evaluation by the readers of the Post will convince them
of my intellectual integrity. But I will continue to suffer from the damage which
has been done to my professional life. I expect a public apology from the Phnom Penh