Gov’t Accuses Paper of Stoking Religious Tensions

The Information Ministry has threatened to close down a pro-Norodom Ranariddh Party newspaper accused of inciting tension between the Mahanikaya and Thammayut Buddhist sects, Cambodia’s two main schools of Buddhism.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Monday that he will shut Khmer Amatak News down if it continues to run articles pitting Cambodia’s Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong, who heads the Mohanikaya sect, against Bou Kry, supreme patriarch of the Thama­yuta sect.

“If the newspaper continues to print such information we will file a complaint to the court to shut down the newspaper,” Khieu Kanharith said.

In a front-page article Wednesday, Khmer Amatak News praised Bou Kry—a former teacher of King Norodom Sihamoni and Prince Norodom Rana­riddh—as a disciplined monk who the newspaper claimed is above politics.

The article went on to accuse Tep Vong of harboring a pro-CPP bias, stating that the supreme patriarch had asked the public to be grateful for Cambodia’s liberation from the Pol Pot regime on Jan 7, 1979, by Cambodian troops supported by a Vietnamese army.

“It seems that [Tep Vong] wants to be the CPP’s spokesman,” the newspaper stated. Neither Bou Kry nor Tep Vong were interviewed by Khmer Amatak for their story.

In a Thursday statement to Khmer Amatak, Khieu Kanharith said the paper had breached Article 4 of the Constitution, which states that Cambodia’s motto is “Nation, Religion, King.”

The minister also accused the paper of breaching Article 7 of the Press Law, which states that the media must not incite discrimination against others based on their religious or political tendencies.

Bun Tha, the newspaper’s editor and an adviser to Prince Rana­riddh, said that if Tep Vong ex­hibits bias toward the CPP, Khmer Ama­tak will cover it. “I will continue to publish stories about monks who are using religion to do political business,” Bun Tha added.

Tep Vong said by telephone he had nothing to defend. “It is the newspaper’s issue. Everything is finished,” he said.

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