The Ministry of Information threatened to shut down a radio station that has begun airing news from Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, and thousands of workers attended an open debate between Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party officials in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said Sunday he has warned Beehive Radio to stop airing the twice-a-day broadcasts of VOA and RFA news, which began July 1. “I can order to shut the station down any time, but I wait to see whether the station respects the Cambodian law or the American law,” he said. “If they still continue to broadcast [RFA and VOA], I will work with the Ministry of Information to strip the license from the station,” he said.
Beehive airs 30-minute segments from each program in the mornings and 90-minute segments in the evenings. Station founder Mam Sonando said he got idea after he saw someone reading a local newspaper over a television news program.
RFA and VOA “broadcast the true and good information, which offers the information to the voters to choose the better leader,” Mam Sonando said Sunday. He defended the broadcasts as legal since they are not live.
But Khieu Kanharith said the station does not have permission to broadcast overseas news. The station also failed to get permission from the National Election Committee, he said. In 2000, the Ministry of Information denied VOA and RFA requests to broadcast from FM stations in Phnom Penh.
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Sunday he would urge the government to allow Beehive to continue its broadcasts. “In democratic countries, the media can extract any information to broadcast, as long as the information is accurate and has acceptable sources,” he said.
“I think the government’s orders are not about the law. It is because [VOA and RFA] broadcast the true information which will affect the ruling party,” Kem Sokha said.
Also Sunday, more than 4,000 workers attended a political debate on labor issues between four high-ranking royalist and Sam Rainsy Party officials at Hang Neak Restaurant in Russei Keo district on Sunday.
The CPP was asked to participate but declined, said Jason Judd, the country representative for the sponsoring American Center for International Solidarity.
Workers were allowed to pose questions, and they raised concerns over wages and the potential effects of lifting a US garment quota in 2005.
Labor observers say the country’s garment industry sector could be devastated if the US lifts the quota, but Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua, representing Funcinpec, said the party will create more jobs in the agricultural and industrial sectors and promote growth in the provinces.
Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, said the US will extend its quota if the country improves conditions for its workers. “To respect the workers’ rights is part of the Americans’ decision to offer the quota to us or not,” he said.
Both parties said, if elected, they could increase workers’ monthly salaries from an average $45 to $80. “We will try our best…. The party will reduce taxes over gas and electricity and eliminate corruption” to increase salaries, said Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara.
Judd said 50,000 printed transcripts of the candidates’ answers will be distributed as leaflets. “We want them to be accountable for their promises,” he said.
Debates organized by the National Democratic Institute were also held in Siem Reap and Battambang provinces Sunday.
According to a news release, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh will campaign in Pursat province today, stopping at two pagodas in Bakan and Krakor districts and at Pursat College in Sampou Meas district. Sam Rainsy will be campaigning in Prey Veng province, party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said.