The country’s first radio program to be broadcast in the Cham language will need the government’s approval before airing, authorities said Tuesday.
The daily one-hour program, which was scheduled to begin on Monday, has been delayed as the Ministry of Information reviews a license application from its host station, 93.5 FM.
Shows in foreign languages require approval from the ministry, Khieu Kanharith, the secretary of state for the Information Ministry, explained on Tuesday.
“All the radio is supposed to be broadcast in Khmer. If you want to broadcast in English or any other language, you must get permission,” he said.
Cambodian Chams number between 500,000 and 1 million, most of whom are Muslims living along rivers or in coastal areas.
About 90 percent speak Cham—a distinct language more closely related to the Indic linguistic branch than Khmer, said Ismael Osman, the undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Cult and Religions.
Also a Cham, he urged the government to allow the program to be broadcast in order to preserve and promote the Cham language.
“The [Ministry of Information] should not withhold the permission. They have Vietnamese and Chinese [media], why can we not have the Cham language?” he said.
The planned program “will help the Muslim people because some of them do not speak or understand Khmer,” he said.
The broadcast on 93.5 FM will include local and international news translated into Cham. It will reach areas in nine provinces outside the capital, according to station administrator Kong Chetra.
Sles Nazy, who will be a commentator on the show, said Tuesday he hopes to reach Cham audiences in the Phnom Penh area before branching out.
“We want to broadcast to Chams everywhere in Cambodia, but right now we can just do it in this area,” he said, adding that he hopes the program will debut before the end of next week.
Khieu Kanharith said he expected permission for the show’s broadcast to be granted.