As reporters, photographers and TV cameramen who covered Cambodia in the early 1970s continue to trickle in for a reunion in the capital this week, organizers of the event said yesterday they are still negotiating with the government over what type of memorial should be used to commemorate journalists who died or disappeared during the civil war.
Organizers Carl Robinson, an Associated Press correspondent in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, and Chhang Song, who served as military press spokesman and Minister of Information under the Khmer Republic, said the journalist group would prefer to place a Boddhi Tree and a list of names of journalists at a site near Phnom Penh’s Hotel Le Royal to serve as a memorial.
“We are negotiating now…. There’s a few options but the tree is what I would like, everyone would like that,” said Mr Song, who has been discussing the planned monument with Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith.
“We had a problem with getting the site on time…. The decision for the site was only made” Saturday, he said. “At least we have something the way we wanted to. We have a groundbreaking ceremony together” on Thursday.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is scheduled to host a reception for the group on Tuesday, said however, Phnom Penh City Hall had not yet endorsed this plan and a monument had yet to be agreed upon.
“They want to plant the Boddhi Tree, but I told them it’s not a good place. We will plant a tree at a pagoda,” he said, “We have to discuss [the memorial] with the city [officials]…. We don’t decide yet.”
From 1970 to 1975, 37 Cambodian and foreign members of the media died or disappeared covering the war. Hotel Le Royal, then known as Le Phnom, served as the unofficial headquarters of the international press corps. Several dozen more Cambodians working in news media died after the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975.
Mr Robinson, who arrived Saturday, said the ceremony at the memorial would be “the highlight of the reunion” for the group, adding, “If we could just plant a [Boddhi] tree we’d be very happy.”