After vanishing from newsstands among rumors that it had been shut down for political reasons, the mystery of the disappearance of popular crime newspaper Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace) is over.
But when it returns Dec 2, few readers may recognize it.
The Khmer-language newspaper is expanding in both size and content. But the most dramatic change will be on the front page. The familiar photos of handcuffed criminals and macabre scenes from killings and fires will still be there. But now the lurid pictures will jump off the page in color.
“I believe the opposition papers will collapse when Koh Santepheap goes color,” said publisher Thong Uy Pang on Monday. “They cannot challenge us.”
Thong Uy Pang, 53, said he decided to expand the four-page daily both to draw more advertising as well as provide more information to readers.
So three weeks ago, the paper stopped publishing, added five people to its 25-member staff and began a $150,000 upgrade of its equipment. The upgrade included a $100,000 printing press, which just arrived from Vietnam, Thong Uy Pang said.
The new Koh Santepheap will be eight pages, with its crime coverage supplemented with stories on education, health and culture. It will also run international news, Thong Uy Pang said.
But one thing will be the same when it hits the newsstands next month: the price. Thong Uy Pang said the paper will continue to sell for 500 riel per copy. He hopes to recoup his investment through increased advertising.
Koh Santepheap is well-known for its coverage of crime and corruption. As a result, its publisher has received numerous threats, some of which have been carried out. He was shot in the leg last June, and in October 1997 two hand grenades were lobbed at his house.
Koh Santepheap’s quiet disappearance from newsstands sparked rumors that its often-critical coverage may have caused it to be shut down.
Calling Koh Santepheap a “ghost” newspaper, Proyuth (Fighting) newspaper suggested this week that the CPP had shut the paper down to prevent it from running critical stories during the recent visit of UN investigators assessing evidence for a Khmer Rouge tribunal. The crime stories, Prayuth suggested, might be “used as evidence of extra-judicial killings and anarchic killings.”
But Koh Santepheap’s publisher dismissed the rumor. “That’s a crazy idea,” he said. “I suspended the paper to set up new management.”