While the return of deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh to Cambodia was the top story in the world media much of Monday, the end of his self-exile didn’t register a blip on the local airwaves.
While international TV crews fell over each other to get video tape of the prince alighting from an airliner at Pochentong Airport, the only local TV station to show up was TVK. But the station’s director opted not to run the tape.
“We will not play the video tape of [Prince] Ranariddh’s return because it is not the return of a head of state,” TVK director Mau Ayut said Tuesday. “He came as a party president, and that would cause jealousy in other party presidents if we ran it.”
TV5 Director Neang Phat said there was nothing special about the event. “He is not the prime minister. He’s like any other traveler and he has the right to come in and out [of the country] since he’s been pardoned.”
Rit Chitra, director of Bayon Radio, also opted not to cover the prince’s return. “He’s just a party president. His return is not interesting.”
Norbert Klein of the local NGO Open Forum, which observes Cambodian media, said he was surprised by the lack of coverage.
“I know not everybody is happy [about the prince’s return], but that is not a reason to suppress information.”
But the print media had plenty to say about the prince’s return with several front-page stories. “Look at the Face of the Jungle Prince Who Comes to Phnom Penh Without Shame,” read one headline from Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace). The story went on to describe how the prince “looked like a prisoner being taken to his death” as he stepped off the plane.
The opposition paper Moneasekar (Conscience) ran a front-page story headlined: “Despite Hun Sen hiring people to protest against Prince Ranariddh, the prince still came safely.”