Media Mogul Claims Victory in Journalist Feud

A media mogul declared victory in a dispute with journalists who asked the Information Ministry to intervene after he called them “thieves,” bragging that he had the government’s backing because the Senate president bought rice from his company.

Oum Sarith, the secretary-general of the Senate, promptly refuted ABC radio owner Seng Bunveng’s claim on Wednesday, and at least one media website threatened to sue him.

Seng Bunveng, right, accepts a symbolic key to ABC radio's new vehicles from Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong at City Hall in August. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Seng Bunveng, right, accepts a symbolic key to ABC radio’s new vehicles from Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong at City Hall in August. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The dispute between Mr. Bunveng, better known as Aja A, and journalists started last week when he branded them on-air as “thieves.” Afterward, more than 20 media organizations submitted a letter to the Information Ministry asking it to demand an apology.

Despite a ministry statement on Tuesday saying that it was seeking to organize a roundtable discussion between both sides, Aja A announced victory in the dispute on Tuesday.

“I would like to declare victory,” he said. “We already won.”

He claimed Senate President Say Chhum had purchased 63 tons of rice from ABC, saying it illustrated the powerful CPP politician’s backing in the dispute.

“We won since we heard from the president of the Senate, Samdech Vibol Pheakdei Say Chhum, while we are battling with these journalist vultures and thieves,” he said, using Mr. Chhum’s full honorific.

“If there were no vultures and evil people trying to destroy [the government], this land would be higher. So, he came in while we are in an emergency situation,” he added.

The ponytailed media mogul also reminded listeners how Prime Minister Hun Sen donated vehicles to ABC last month after Phnom Penh health officials impounded an ambulance belonging to the station.

However, Mr. Sarith, the Senate’s secretary-general, said on Wednesday that the purchase was in no way linked to the ongoing dispute with journalists.

“This purchase doesn’t mean we are supporting any sides. These are different stories, but the individual has used it in another way,” Mr. Sarith said. “No, it is not our will.”

Ros Sokhet, owner of The Khmer Nation news website— one of 20 organizations that requested the Information Ministry’s intervention—said they planned to sue Aja A following his latest outburst.

“We decided to sue Aja A in court after the Pchum Ben festival in order to make him explain why journalists are thieves,” he said on Wednesday. “What have they stolen? When? Where?”

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