Gov’t Spokesman Wants Critical Article Explained

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan on Thursday demanded that Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Khmer service “clarify” a damning political commentary that attacked Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-standing grip on power.

In an open letter made public on Thursday, Mr. Siphan insisted that RFA Khmer chief Chun Chanboth explain the use of four phrases in an August 27 analysis piece entitled “How Important are Term Limits for Prime Ministers?”

In the article, Mr. Chanboth took aim at Mr. Hun Sen for clinging to power and implied that he was surrounded by sycophantic advisers, two points that provoked Mr. Siphan’s ire.

Mr. Siphan also questioned references the journalist made to the use of security forces to attack protesters and journalists, as well as the assertion that officials, up to and including the King, required the prime minister’s support to hold onto their positions.

“It seems that this foreign radio station has interfered in internal politics and with the sovereignty of Cambodian soil,” Mr. Siphan wrote.

“I hope and believe that the general public will receive an explanation of the objective of using these words and of RFA’s accountability, in the near future,” he added.

Mr. Chanboth responded to the spokesman’s letter on his personal Facebook page, saying he would not provide an alternative interpretation of his words, as he had used common parlance.

“On the other hand, what Mr. Phay Siphan raised as examples in his letter truly reflects the facts,” he wrote.

Mr. Chanboth said that he was unperturbed by the government spokesman’s letter.

“He has made numerous threats to RFA in the past. I’m not concerned about reporting if it’s the truth,” Mr. Chanboth said.

Contacted by telephone, Mr. Siphan said he was not planning to file a formal complaint against Mr. Chanboth, but called his letter “the first step.”

“I don’t want to say beforehand,” he said. “But there has been a reaction from the security side and from the people around Samdech [Hun Sen] who need to protect their reputations, because they were called sycophants.”

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