Government Going After Media Critics

As the government today launches criminal charges again­st a newspaper editor it says smeared King Norodom Siha­nouk’s  reputation, a Cambodian go­­vernment official also has called for action against a Bang­kok paper that accused the government of drug trafficking.

In the government’s first-ever court action to defend the mon­arch’s reputation, Ouk Kim Seng, editor-in-chief of Kampuchea Bul­letin, will face charges in Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court for “de­faming and affecting [the King’s] honor,” government spokes­­man Khieu Kan­harith said Monday.

The move, which follows the 30-day suspension of the Bulletin earlier this month, was prompted by a July 11 story that alleged  Paris-based Prince Norodom Sihamoni is not the King’s son.

“You cannot assume that the wife of somebody is having affairs,” Khieu Kanharith said, explaining the severity of the government’s response. “It is the most insulting and heavy accusation you can make in Cambodia.”

The story titled “Search for One Who Would Be King” was a Khmer translation of a feature on the succession that appeared on the Web site of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. The King has hotly denied the accusation and has launched a civil suit against the Post.

In a separate move, Minister of Information Lu Laysreng on Monday urged National Assem­bly members to take swift action against Bangkok-based The Nation for an editorial accusing the government of conspiring with drug traffickers.

The July 23 editorial describes drug trafficking in Cambodia as a major threat to regional security and says crooked officials at the highest levels of government are profiting from the illicit trade. It alleges that there are “too many people around [Prime Minister Hun Sen]…involved or ensnared in drug trafficking” for the premier to take real steps to fight it.

“This article is very serious because it is attacking all members of parliament for drug involvement,” Lu Laysreng said Monday. “Lately it’s as if outsiders are launching a campaign to attack us.”

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)




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