Political Rhetoric Heats Up Across Airwaves

CPP- and Funcinpec-backed media outlets fiercely traded barbs this weekend after discovering that strict media guidelines decreed by the National Election Committee last week have no legal basis.

The NEC last week threatened to suspend until Election Day private media outlets that showed political bias. On Friday, the committee summoned and warned three stations with royalist ties, then revealed that it was unable to take action.

“Now we have realized that the NEC is really a paper tiger,” said Mar Sophal, a monitor for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

NEC officials were embarrassed by the discovery after last week’s aggressive ultimatum. During a daylong monitoring period, most radio stations ditched political skits or commentary. Only royalist Ta Prohm, 90 FM and 93.5 FM ig­nored the ultimatum, prompting NEC spokesman Leng Sochea to publicly threaten suspension.

Now, pro-CPP stations are again allowing call-in listeners to rant against Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy and airing sharply critical newspaper editorials.

Private television stations Bay­on, Apsara and TV3 have also joined the media fray, broadcasting CPP-produced skits with famous actors and comedians parodying opposition leaders.

“This is our response to those [Funcinpec-aligned] stations according to the democratic process that Prince Ranariddh wants,” said Thai Norak Satia, general director of Bayon, on Sunday.

Only TV5, TV9 and CTN have refrained from airing political advertisements, Mar Sophal said.

The NEC ultimatum cites Article 76 of the election law, which forbids parties and candidates from “using violence, abuse, or contemptuous remarks” but does not address the media. The ultimatum also cited the NEC’s code of conduct, an agreement between parties on campaigning principles.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha acknowledged on Sunday that the committee had no power to suspend a station.

“We don’t have any fundamental law to control over private media,” he said.

Election monitors said unbridled private media coverage would slam smaller parties.

“It is very unjust for the small parties, because only the ruling parties have private media,” said Hang Puthea, president of the Neutral, Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Others saw deeper orchestration in the ultimatum fall-out.

“This is the NEC’s failure. The NEC understands that the CPP is losing popularity, and that is why they allow the private media to broadcast free,” said Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party’s deputy secretary-general, Hang Samrith.

Meanwhile, the Sam Rainsy Party, the CPP and the Indra Buddra City Party drew crowds for campaign parades through Phnom Penh’s streets Sunday morning.

The Sam Rainsy Party crowd swelled to near 10,000 supporters, said Ho Vann, chief of the party in Phnom Penh.

“I hope [Sam Rainsy] will win [all] nine seats here,” he said.

Outside CPP headquarters, 23-year-old Phan Cheik waved a CPP flag and cheered passers-by. The chief of Village 16 arranged for him and his friends to come to the rally, he said.

“The CPP liberated the people,” Phan Cheik said. “I am very happy to support the party.”

With two weeks remaining before Election Day, the CPP has many more rallies scheduled, said Touch Saron of the party’s Phnom Penh steering committee.

“We will get more support for the CPP. You will see the results in the July 27 elections,” she said.

Indra Buddra City Party President Narak Ratanak Voathanor led more than 50 packed vehicles from the National Museum to the stupa in front of the railway station.

“Please choose a good boat,” he said, using the metaphor of a river journey. “Please vote for number 13.”

Also, on Friday, Prince Ranariddh said voters at the polls should consider a proposal by some US lawmakers led by Mitch McConnell to increase aid to the country if Prime Minister Hun Sen is voted out of office.

“It’s up to the Cambodian people…. They can vote for Hun Sen and lose the aid,” the prince said during a news conference at Funcinpec headquarters.

Today the prince will campaign at Kampot Stadium in Kampot Province, and Sam Rainsy will tour Siem Reap Province. Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim will greet incoming King Norodom Sihanouk at Phnom Penh International Airport at 3 pm. (Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

By Yun Samean

and Saing Soenthrith

the cambodia daily

CPP- and Funcinpec-backed media outlets are fiercely trading barbs this weekend after discovering that strict media guidelines decreed by the National Election Committee last week have no legal basis.

The NEC last week threatened to suspend until Election Day private media outlets that showed political bias. On Friday, the committee summoned and warned three stations with royalist ties, then revealed that it was unable to take action.

“Now we have realized that the NEC is really a paper tiger,” said Mar Sophal, a monitor for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

NEC officials were embarrassed by the discovery after last week’s aggressive ultimatum. During a day-long monitoring period, most radio stations ditched political skits or commentary. Only royalist Ta Prohm, 90 FM and 93.5 FM ignored the ultimatum, prompting NEC spokesman Leng Sochea to publicly threaten suspension.

Now, pro-CPP stations are allowing call-in listeners to rant against Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy and airing sharply critical newspaper editorials.

Private television stations Bayon, Apsara and TV3 have also joined the media fray, broadcasting CPP-produced skits with famous actors and comedians parodying opposition leaders.

“This is our response to those [Funcinpec-aligned] stations according to the democratic process that Prince Ranariddh wants,” said Thai Norak Satia, general director of Bayon, on Sunday.

Only TV5, TV9 and CTN have refrained from airing political advertisements, Mar Sophal said.

The NEC ultimatum cites Article 76 of the election law, which forbids parties and candidates from “using violence, abuse, or contemptuous remarks” but does not address the media. The ultimatum also cited the NEC’s code of conduct, an agreement between parties on campaigning principles.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha acknowledged on Sunday that the committee had no power to suspend a station.

“We don’t have any fundamental law to control over private media,” he said.

Election monitors said unbridled private media coverage would slam smaller parties.

“It is very unjust for the small parties, because only the ruling parties have private media,” said Hang Puthea, president of the Neutral, Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Others saw deeper orchestration in the ultimatum fall-out.

“This is the NEC’s failure. The NEC understands that the CPP is losing popularity, and that is why they allow the private media to broadcast free,” said Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party’s deputy secretary-general, Hang Samrith.

Meanwhile, the Sam Rainsy Party, the CPP and the Indra Buddra City Party drew crowds for campaign parades through Phnom Penh’s streets Sunday morning.

The Sam Rainsy Party crowd swelled to near 10,000 supporters, said Ho Vann, chief of the party in Phnom Penh.

“I hope [Sam Rainsy] will win [all] nine seats here,” he said.

Outside CPP headquarters, 23-year-old Phan Cheik waved a CPP flag and cheered passers-by. The chief of Village 16 arranged for him and his friends to come to the rally, he said.

“The CPP liberated the people,” Phan Cheik said. “I am very happy to support the party.”

With two weeks remaining before Election Day, the CPP has many more rallies scheduled, said Touch Saron of the party’s Phnom Penh steering committee.

“We will get more support for the CPP. You will see the results in the July 27 elections,” she said.

Indra Buddra City Party President Narak Ratanak Voathanor led more than 50 packed vehicles from the National Museum to the stupa in front of the railway station.

“Please choose a good boat,” he said, using the metaphor of a river journey. “Please vote for number 13.”

Also, on Friday, Prince Ranariddh said voters at the polls should consider a proposal by some US lawmakers led by Mitch McConnell to increase aid to the country if Prime Minister Hun Sen is voted out of office.

“It’s up to the Cambodian people…. They can vote for Hun Sen and lose the aid,” the prince said during a news conference at Funcinpec headquarters.

Today the prince will campaign at Kampot Stadium in Kampot Province, and Sam Rainsy will tour Siem Reap Province. Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim will greet incoming King Norodom Sihanouk at Phnom Penh International Airport at 3 pm.

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

 

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