RFA, The Cam­bo­dia Daily may re­open in Cam­bo­dia: min­is­ter

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

THE Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment said Tues­day that Ra­dio Free Asia is wel­come to re­open its of­fice in the cap­i­tal Ph­nom Penh, as­sert­ing that no pres­sure had been ap­plied to RFA to shut down last year and that the con­gres­sion­ally funded US-based in­ter­na­tional broad­caster had cho­sen to close on its own.

“There was no pres­sure,” Min­is­ter of the In­te­rior Sar Kheng said dur­ing a pub­lic meet­ing at the min­istry at­tended by po­lice of­fi­cers and NGO rep­re­sen­ta­tives. “RFA closed the of­fice by it­self.”

“But now we wel­come them back, and the ra­dio sta­tion can reestab­lish its of­fice in Ph­nom Penh,” Sar Kheng said.

RFA closed its nearly 20-year old bureau in the Cam­bo­dian cap­i­tal in Septem­ber 2017 amid a grow­ing crack­down by Prime Min­is­ter Hun’s rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party (CPP) on in­de­pen­dent me­dia, NGOs, and crit­ics ahead of na­tional elec­tions in July this year.

Cam­bo­dian jour­nal­ists work­ing for RFA had re­ported over the years on cor­rup­tion, illegal log­ging, and forced evic­tions, among other stories largely ig­nored by state-con­trolled me­dia, and au­thor­i­ties had al­ready closed in­de­pen­dent ra­dio sta­tions car­ry­ing RFA re­ports, us­ing a pre­text of tax and ad­min­is­tra­tive vi­o­la­tions.

In Novem­ber 2017, RFA re­porters Uon Ch­hin and Yeang Sot­hearin were taken into cus­tody and charged with “il­le­gally col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion for a for­eign source.”

Cam­bo­dia’s min­istries of In­for­ma­tion and In­te­rior had warned prior to their ar­rests that any jour­nal­ists still work­ing for RFA af­ter its of­fice in the cap­i­tal closed would be treated as spies.

The pair were re­leased on bail in Septem­ber af­ter spend­ing nine months be­hind bars on charges of es­pi­onage. Mul­ti­ple lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional rights groups had con­demned Hun Sen’s gov­ern­ment for its treat­ment of the two re­porters dur­ing their de­ten­tion, de­mand­ing that they be freed.

Mean­while, Sar Kheng said, The Cam­bo­dia Daily – an in­de­pen­dent news­pa­per of­ten crit­i­cal of Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen that closed in Septem­ber 2017 – can re­sume op­er­a­tions if the pa­per pays what he said were taxes still owed to the gov­ern­ment.

Sar Kheng said that the pa­per had evaded pay­ment by clos­ing its op­er­a­tions in the coun­try.

“But if The Cam­bo­dia Daily re­turns and agrees to pay its taxes, they will have full rights to re­sume op­er­a­tions,” he said.

Speak­ing to RFA’s Kh­mer Ser­vice, Cam­bo­dian Cen­tre for In­de­pen­dent Me­dia di­rec­tor Nop Vy said that in­stead of sim­ply say­ing that for­eign me­dia out­lets can re­turn, Cam­bo­dia’s gov­ern­ment should in­tro­duce clear mea­sures guar­an­tee­ing press free­doms in the coun­try.

“I would like the gov­ern­ment to open more space for ev­ery­one to freely ex­press their opin­ions on how to im­prove so­ci­ety,” he said.

“I would also like to see jour­nal­ists work in­de­pen­dently and in se­cu­rity,” he said.

Photo: EPA

A man reads the fi­nal is­sue of The Cam­bo­dia Daily Ph­nom Penh, Cam­bo­dia, on Septem­ber 4, 2017. news­pa­per at a book­store in

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