The Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU) on Monday swiftly deleted a news article from its website that detailed Sunday’s opposition marches in Phnom Penh that saw 50,000 people turn out to demand Prime Minister Hun Sen resign from his position.
The Reuters article, which was headlined Thousands of Cambodians Rally on Sunday to Demand PM Steps Down, was published by the PQRU on the general news section of its website shortly after the rally’s close.
“Tens of thousands of Cambodian opposition supporters, backed by striking garment-factory workers, rallied on Sunday to demand long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen step down and call an election,” the article read.
The article on the PQRU site was edited from the original news copy, but kept prominently placed quotes from opposition leader Sam Rainsy, whose CNRP has led the recent marches and demonstrations to call for Mr. Hun Sen’s ouster.
“Hun Sen and his illegal government can hear us, they can’t ignore us, the people show their will for change,” Mr. Rainsy is quoted as saying in the third paragraph. “We demand that Hun Sen to steps down and a new election.”
References to Mr. Rainsy’s position as Cambodia’s opposition leader, CNRP president and former finance minister were, however, scrubbed.
Informed about the presence of the article on the PQRU website Monday, spokesman Ek Tha asked a reporter to call back. The article was then deleted from the website and Mr. Tha could no longer be reached.
However, in a radio interview Monday, another PQRU spokesman, Tith Sothea defended the posting of the article.
“In publishing this article, the government only wants to show how the political situation in Cambodia is reported in foreign press,” he said. “Second, we want to show about [our] broadening of information. This is a part of the strengthening of the media.”
Phay Siphan, Council of Ministers spokesman, said he had only heard about the article from others.
“A number of people have told me the Press and Quick Reaction website was hacked,” he said.