A top editor at Kampuchea Thmei Daily (New Cambodia) on Sunday defended the newspaper’s recent reporting of a Thai professor’s proposal to have Cambodia return Preah Vihear temple to Thailand.
Articles printed last week in the Khmer-language paper said Prasidh Ekabutr of Bangkok’s Thammasat University had suggested Preah Vihear be handed over as compensation for the $48 million in damages claimed by Thai-owned businesses in the aftermath of last year’s anti-Thai riots.
Man Bun Thoeun, the deputy editor-in-chief of Kampuchea Thmei Daily, said the information came from Thai-language newspapers in Thailand, which first reported the professor’s idea on Dec 25. He would not name the Thai newspapers.
Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, criticized the paper’s reporting on Friday, saying Kampuchea Thmei Daily only wrote one side of the story and “did not perform professional ethics in reporting.”
Man Bun Thoeun said he believed his paper’s articles were fair, even though it did not contact the Thai Embassy or the professor.
“We just translated the article and interviewed Cambodian people to express their views regarding the article,” he said.
The Thai Embassy sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Information on Wednesday, asking them to stop the spread of the Kampuchea Thmei Daily articles.
The embassy wrote that the professor’s remarks reflected his “private opinion” and were not “the policy of the Thai government nor the general opinion of the Thai people.”
The letter said the embassy was worried the articles could “lead to misunderstanding between the people of the two countries.”
The statement was an apparent reference to the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, which destroyed the Thai Embassy and more than a dozen Thai-owned businesses. The riots were sparked by unsubstantiated allegations that Thai actress Suvanant Kongying had demanded Angkor Wat be given to Thailand. The rumor, reported in Khmer-language newspapers, was later proven false.
Khieu Kanharith said Friday the government would not follow the Thai Embassy’s request to stop the articles. “In Cambodia, we have no law to ban anyone from writing news,” he said.
Minister of Information Lu Laysreng on Sunday said no action would be taken against Kampuchea Thmei Daily. He said he believed the professor did make the proposal, but Cambodians should not take the issue seriously.
“The Thais are the side that created this matter,” he said. “Who creates the problem must solve the problem.”
A dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the temple was settled in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, which ruled in favor of Cambodia.