Funcinpec Asks To Protest Over Comments

Funcinpec on Monday asked permission from Phnom Penh Municipality to hold a 2,000-strong protest at the CTN television station in Russei Keo district over statements made last week by well-known news anchor Soy Sopheap, Funcinpec’s Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay said.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, who is also a deputy prime minister, said he requested permission to protest because Soy Sopheap on Thurs­day openly urged Funcin­pec officials to vote for the CPP.

He added that Soy Sopheap’s comments would affect Funcin­pec’s result in the May 17 district, municipal and provincial council elections.

No date has been set for the pro­­­­test, as the party is waiting for City Hall to grant permission, he said, adding that the party also plans to file a lawsuit against Soy Sopheap for the commentary he made on his morning news program, Nhiek Bun Chhay said.

“As a journalist, he shouldn’t urge Funcinpec officials to vote for the CPP; he is not a professional journalist,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said by telephone. “He looks down on the royalist party.”

Nhiek Bun Chhay said Soy Sopheap also exaggerated when he claimed that Funcinpec and its royalist partner the Norodom Rana­riddh Party had forced their commune councilors to take an oath in February to vote royalist in the council election.

“We took the oath for better co­operation between the two parties; we didn’t force them,” he said.

Soy Sopheap said on Monday that he stood by his comments.

“As a journalist, I can make commentary,” he said.

“I welcome [Nhiek Bun Ch­hay’s] actions; this is the first time that a deputy prime minister threatens to file a lawsuit against a journalist,” Soy Sopheap added.

Actually, CPP Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong has sued a number of journalists in the past, most re­cently the editor-in-chief of an op­position newspaper last year.

Soy Sopheap said he spoke as he did because he had seen Fun­cinpec drop from a party holding 58 seats in the National Assembly to one that only managed to secure two seats in the last election.

“Funcinpec is weak because senior Funcinpec officials have joined with the CPP. Funcinpec officials should just join with the CPP,” he added.

CTN’s news department Di­rect­or Som Chhaya said Soy So­pheap’s comments did not re­flect the station’s point of view.

He added that Nhiek Bun Chhay hadn’t contacted him for clarification regarding Soy So­pheap’s broadcast remarks.

“To me, I think that Nhiek Bun Chhay and Soy Sopheap should resolve the case peacefully; they know each other,” he added.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Nhiek Bun Chhay should submit a request for a “correction” before protesting on the streets.

“I urge that he pursue a correction before taking a second step. It is better to have a correction rather than protesting,” he said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Gover­nor Kep Chuktema was abroad Monday and could not be reach­ed for comment, while Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheat­vong said he was not aware of the request to demonstrate at the CTN headquarters.


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