Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) chairman Om Yentieng on Wednesday used a press conference after an event marking the U.N.’s International Anti-Corruption Day to blast The Cambodia Daily because it only published unflattering stories about him and corruption.
Speaking to a group of reporters outside Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Theater after the event, Mr. Yentieng objected to a question from a reporter about why Cambodia ranked a lowly 156 out of 175 nations last year in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Brother, where are you from?” Mr. Yentieng asked. “The Cambodia Daily,” the reporter replied.
Mr. Yentieng, who was the subject of a front-page article on Wednesday about his decision not to prosecute a senior Health Ministry official over revelations that he took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, informed the reporter that the U.N. frowns upon listed rankings of countries.
“Daily, brother, I would like to inform you that the U.N. does not allow the making of rankings or numbers,” he said. “This [index] isn’t an international standard, and it belongs to one organization.”
“If we follow organizations, three of us could be an organization and then place The Daily at zero. I could put five zeros!”
An increasingly animated Mr. Yentieng was then asked to list what he believed were the main achievements of the ACU.
“How can I say, since I’ve already said it. They broadcasted it nationwide but you did not listen, and if I say it again, you will not listen because you do not take these words to be published in the paper,” he said.
“I’ve never had my words published, but have only had my words taken to be exaggerated or to slander me,” he said, leading the reporter to ask how The Cambodia Daily had slandered him.
“Brother, would you bet $5,000 with me, and I will show you,” he said. “Are you a new reporter? How many days [have you worked there]?”
Mr. Yentieng then detailed a brief history of his grievances with this newspaper. He cited an article published more than a decade ago about the problems his wife faced after trying to purchase timber that had been illegally logged.
In April 2004, The Cambodia Daily published an article from Kompong Speu province’s Oral district in which a woman claiming to be Mr. Yentieng’s wife—and who was described by villagers as his third—had 4.3 cubic meters of luxury wood confiscated from her.
“The Daily, when my wife went to fix a house, said my wife was my third wife,” Mr. Yentieng said.
“There were a lot of issues. When I was preparing my house, it said I was the boss of the loggers and took the whole Oral mountain [but] I never knew Oral. It was very lucky my windows were made from iron,” he said. “If they were made from wood, it would be like you swore at me.”
Mr. Yentieng said his unit’s good deeds, meanwhile, had gone ignored.
“I ask whether the Daily has ever spoken good of me? And if the Daily has spoken good of our Anti-Corruption Unit? It is zero,” Mr. Yentieng said. “Brother, go back and recheck your articles.”
Reaching a crescendo, the anti-corruption chief entered into a final tirade against the reporter.
“If I did not step on your heel, you would continue to act like this. Brother—never think I am your hostage. I do not eat the Daily’s rice or salary, I eat the people’s salary,” Mr. Yentieng said.
“Brother, you continue your dirty work and I will continue my good work,” he continued. “The point of your pen has killed many people, not a few. It’s stronger than the edge of a weapon.”