A new television comedy show featuring slapstick violence against a misguided rights activist debuted at 8:00 pm Saturday on pro-government channel Bayon TV.
Prominent comedian Ou Bunnarath, better known by his stage name Kroem, produces and acts in the show, “Ang Sith Proyat,” meaning, “Overuse Your Rights, Be Careful.”
The first episode comprised a series of sketches in which a rights activist named Touch teaches villagers about their rights. The villagers then overuse their rights, resulting in the destruction of the community. Touch is blamed for the social unrest, and villagers then beat him.
In one sketch Touch explains the idea of equality to a young man who is engaged to be married and has agreed to pay for the ceremony.
After learning about equality, the groom-to-be demands that his fiance’s poor family pay half the costs, resulting in a broken engagement. The young man then becomes enraged and pummels the rights activist.
Ou Bunnarath, who starred in a pro-CPP comedy lampooning opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh before the 2003 elections, listed mutual respect between husband and wife as one of the lessons taught in the show.
“It aims to teach people to respect each other, because if we rely on overused rights, we can’t live in Khmer society,” he said.
“Our country can’t be like other countries. In European countries they can’t beat their children, but in Cambodia children must respect their elders.”
Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha criticized the show. “That weekend comedy show broadcast on Bayon TV is essentially against real human rights activists and democratic rule,” he said.
Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development said she doubted the show would have much effect on people’s perception of human rights NGOs, citing surveys about citizens’ confidence in such organizations. “Somehow the NGOs are number one,” she said. “[People] trust NGOs even more than the pagoda, believe it or not.”