City Hands Over Preah Vihear Radio Station

After a year of looking for money to keep FM 99 MHz on air, Phnom Penh officials finally have decided to end the city’s involvement with the station near Preah Vihear temple and relinquish control to provincial officials.

“It’s very difficult because of financial problems,” said Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on Thursday. “Phnom Penh is not able to run it.”

It cost the city an estimated $6,000 a month to keep the station running with a staff of five dispatched from Phnom Penh. The city still owes creditors $100,000 for building the station and erecting the tower near Preah Vihear.

In an effort to salvage the station, the city looked for a partner, but found no takers, Kep Chuk­tema said. Their only option was to hand the station to local authorities in Preah Vihear, he said.

FM 99 MHz was the brainchild of former Phnom Penh governor Chea Sophara, who built the mountaintop station to bring cultural and news programming to the remote villages around Preah Vihear. It was also intended as a tool to educate listeners about the cultural importance of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

The 10-kilowatt transmitter was erected in January and has the capability of broadcasting signals to Siem Reap, Ratanakkiri, Oddar Meanchey and Kompong Thom provinces. It can also reach at least 100 km into Thai territory, where there are many ethnic Khmer communities. The station’s antenna was originally slated to be constructed next to the temple, which immediately drew criticism from UN cultural officers because the tower would have lessened the temple’s chances of becoming a  World Heritage site.

Kham Punkevmuni, director-general of Phnom Penh Tele­vision and Radio, agreed that it would be too difficult to find private investment in the station.

“I don’t think there is any in­come potential,” he said.

Officials in Preah Vihear have not said what they plan to do with the station.

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