Critical Papers Won’t Be Shut, Information Official Says

As rumors circulate in Khmer-language newspapers that one of Cambodia’s highest officials is embroiled in the murder of Piseth Peaklica, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday the government will not muzzle the press.

Responding to fears by Dam Sith, editor of a Khmer-language newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience), Khieu Kanharith said the government had no plans to shut or suspend newspapers and such talk was an attempt to politicize the unsolved murder for “propaganda purposes.”

“Many people ask why the Ministry of Information has not taken action against those who imply things about the Piseth Peaklica case….The government will not take action. The police must take action first and after that people who have been defamed can sue the newspapers,” said Khieu Kanharith, the secretary of state at the Informa­tion Ministry.

Dam Sith claimed Monday that he had been warned by a government official that authorities were planning to shut down his newspaper for criticizing the investigation of the Piseth Peaklica case.

Samleng Yuvachon Khmer (The Voice of Khmer Youth), in Wednesday’s edition, compared Piseth Peaklica to Monica

Le­winsky, the former White House intern who had an illicit relationship with US President Bill Clin­ton. The paper quoted sources as saying the Khmer film star was murdered to prevent a Lewinsky-type scandal.

“Hillary Clinton did not use crime against Monica Lewinsky,” the paper wrote, referring to the US president’s wife. The piece was accompanied by a photograph of the Clintons and a photograph of Prime Minister Hun Sen and wife Bun Rany.

Khieu Kanharith said Wednes­day that the prime minister is aware of the “gossip and the rumors” linking him to the film star. But the senior official said Hun Sen is ignoring the gossip.

“It is not important for the prime minister to make a statement about these rumors. It would be strange if he made a statement about gossip,” Khieu Kanharith said by telephone, dismissing the allegations as false.

Doctors at Calmette Hospital, where Piseth Peaklica was treated, countered accusations in Khmer-language newspapers that they had mistreated the star by holding a press conference explaining the injuries and causes of death.

(Additional reporting by Ham Samnang)

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