Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - State urges discretion in border coverage

State urges discretion in border coverage

State urges discretion in border coverage

OFFICIALS from the Ministry of Information met yesterday with their Thai counterparts in Phnom Penh, emphasising the need for media outlets to report accurately and avoid fanning the flames of the border dispute.

The meeting came just weeks after Cambodia and Thailand returned their respective ambassadors and restored full diplomatic ties following the rift over Phnom Penh’s appointment of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser. Thaksin, wanted in
Thailand on graft charges, resigned from the position last month.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that as the countries work to repair their frayed relationship, their media must avoid needlessly stoking nationalistic passions.

“I appreciate the mature attitude of media from the two countries who don’t publish reports that will cause hatefulness or racism among the populations of the two countries, even though we’ve had problems in diplomacy,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Media outlets have often played a contentious role in Thai-Cambodian relations. In 2003, rioters burned down the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh following a false report, cited in a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen, that a Thai actress had claimed the famed Angkor Wat temple complex belonged to Thailand.

More recently, Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper quoted Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as saying last month that Bangkok would consider “both diplomatic and military means” to solve the disagreement with Cambodia over a patch of land adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. Hun Sen cited this quotation in a letter to the president of the United Nations Security Council, calling it an “obvious threat”.

Officials in Bangkok, however, later said that Abhisit’s statements had been misquoted and taken out of context, citing Thailand’s commitment to a 2000 Memorandum of Understanding with Cambodia that provides for peaceful demarcation of the border.

“We want to solve these problems peacefully, without the use of force,” Abhisit said last month, according to the Bangkok Post.

Moeun Chhean Narridh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said reporters had a responsibility to carefully handle the “very sensitive and delicate” issues at the centre of the Thai-Cambodian conflict. He said he worried about the tendency of news outlets in both countries to trade in inflated nationalism and war-mongering.

“The media has a role to not take sides and avoid conflict,” he said.

Ongart Klampaiboon, Abhisit’s Office Minister and the leader of the visiting delegation, said dubious media reports on the dispute were a continuing problem. On Wednesday, Ongart said, several Thai media outlets incorrectly reported that Hun Sen had backed out of a proposed meeting with Abhisit at an international summit scheduled for next month in Belgium.

But just as news outlets need to be discerning in their reporting, officials from the two countries should be discrete in their communications with one another, Moeun Chhean Narridh said, and avoid doing diplomacy through the media.

“The government should not rely on the media as statements representing any side,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

MOST VIEWED

  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group