Programming in support of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s border negotiations with Vietnam dominated television broadcasts Monday, including anti-Norodom Sihanouk songs from the 1970s, petitions from disparate groups and a firebrand speech by Hun Sen broadcast on three channels.
With a map of Cambodia in the background, Sin Sisamuth’s legendary voice sang the Lon Nol-era song “Tomorrow, Say Good-bye to Mother to Join the Army” on state-controlled TV—a song whose lyrics accuse the retired King of giving land to the Viet Cong and calling for children to join the army.
“Feel sorrow, Khmer land from [our] ancestors the King sold to the Viet Cong, betrayed nation, religion,” the singer crooned.
TVK and Bayon television broadcast petitions sent from across Cambodia supporting the government’s signing of the controversial border treaty.
One letter broadcast in the name of Kompong Chhnang Provincial Governor Touch Marin offered the support of all district governors, deputy district governors, civil servants, students, armed forces and ordinary citizens.
“We really appreciate that [Hun Sen] has the wisdom to bring peace and happiness to the nation,” the TVK presenter read from the letter. “We strongly oppose the unthoughtful people who often create chaos.”
TVK also broadcast petitions from Phnom Penh primary schools in favor of the treaty, and Apsara TV broadcast extracts from pro-government newspapers.
One television channel showed heavily armed Intervention Police drilling with gas masks, riot shields, batons, attack dogs and automatic weapons.
Radio stations including Bayon, FM 99 and FM 103 carried call-in shows in which both hosts and callers praised Hun Sen and criticized border activists. Beehive FM 105 Radio, whose owner Mam Sonando is incarcerated following a controversial interview about the border, broadcast the Cambodian Center for Human Rights’ Voice of Democracy program.
Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development said television is monopolized by the CPP, but added that the party’s large-scale use of the media is a joyless endeavor.
“When you compete with somebody that is much lower in resource or finance, there is no joy in the competition, because there is no challenge,” she said.
Bayon TV/Radio Deputy Director Rith Chettra said people from around the country sent their support for Hun Sen.
Apsara TV/Radio General Director Sok Ey San said although everyone who called in supported Hun Sen, the network is still open to callers with alternative political views.
“One hundred percent of people call in support of the prime minister,” he said. “We have only one [telephone] line. If they are good at pressing the phone buttons, they can get through.”