Pro-Royalist Radio Station Begins Broadcasting

The new pro-Funcinpec Ta­prohm Radio station began its second week of broadcasting on Mon­day with pop tunes and royalist party news, a media mix that party officials hope will win over voters in the approach to July’s general elections.

Debuting on the airwaves at FM 90.5, Taprohm is—unofficially—the royalist party’s first radio station since the bloody events of July 1997 when a vanquished Fun­cinpec not only lost its prime minister and its tenuous reigns on power, but also its radio and television outlets.

In the intervening years, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s politically dom­inant CPP has monopolized political life on government-run and privately owned TV and radio stations.

Leading up to the February 2002 commune elections, election monitors claimed that some 90 percent of government activities broadcast on state-owned stations concentrated on the CPP, near­ly 10 percent on Funcinpec, while Sam Rainsy Party members were rarely seen or heard.

Taprohm is new, and a royalist alternative. But don’t expect it to be impartial.

On Monday, the station concentrated on interspersing easy-listening tunes with short news bulletins espousing the views of Funcinpec officials and attacking the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

The news item, gleaned from the pages of the pro-royalist Khmer Amatak newspaper, claimed mass defections from the op­position party in Kompong Thom province, where more than 150 former opposition supporters vowed to follow Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the radio reported.

A speech by Funcinpec Minis­ter of Women’s Affairs Mu So­chua urged garment workers to register in the upcoming election. Another speech, given by Prince Ranariddh to Cambodia’s ethnic-Chi­nese community, was also broadcast.

Other news focused on rights groups criticizing intimidation of political activists and the lower-than-expected number of new voters registering for the election.

“It’s a different voice. It’s the voice that has been missing from the airwaves for so many years,” the radio station’s general manager said Monday.

Though it may “lean toward” the royalist party, Taprohm is a privately-run corporation and is not owned by Funcinpec, the general manager said. Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay also said Monday that the station was a private entity.

“This is not Funcinpec’s radio station. It is a private radio station where all political parties can buy time,” he said. “This radio is to educate and inform the people with real information.”

And the pro-royalist station has already started to turn heads, the general manager said.

“People are tuning in, people are listening…. It’s an eye opener for older stations…. Good, clean information,” said the manager, adding he has listeners reporting they picked up the station in prov­inces as far as Kompong Thom, Kompong Speu, Takeo, Kom­pong Cham and Svay Rieng.

Finding advertising is the station’s next priority, said the manager, adding that costs were mounting for the station’s 20 staff members, half of whom are reporters.

Information Ministry Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith said the license for Taprohm was granted to a private company in 1997.

The CPP also seems intent to get in on the broadcasting battle before the election.

Om Yentieng, adviser to Hun Sen on human rights, said Mon­day the government is seeking to open a new radio station dedicated to building democracy and human rights. The government is seeking financial support for the planned FM 101 station, which will not be political and not linked to the election, unlike other new stations, Om Yentieng said.

“They want to have power; that’s why they formed the radio station,” he said. “If the parties want to have the votes, first they have to serve people.”

(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle)



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