The journalist who had been leading Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) news operations in Cambodia returned to the airwaves on Wednesday for the first time since he left the country and a day after a court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Radio personality Huot Vuthy, 54, recorded his regular, hourlong program in Washington, continuing his Khmer-language coverage of Cambodian politics from afar after arriving in the U.S. on Sunday. The show aired online and was broadcast across Cambodia on Wednesday evening.
Mr. Vuthy, RFA’s deputy director for Cambodia, was summoned to appear before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday over allegations that he falsely identified himself as an “assistant” to the opposition CNRP during a visit to 16 imprisoned opposition officials and activists last month with two CNRP lawmakers.
He did not appear in court, instead submitting written testimony through his attorney in which he maintained that he told a Prey Sar prison guard that he worked for RFA. He said he had not listed his job title when he signed in.
“I entered openly along with the lawmakers’ group. I just sat to listen to what they said without walking to check around or interview anyone,” Mr. Vuthy said in his testimony.
Before reporting on World Press Freedom Day events in Phnom Penh and the Interior Ministry’s acceptance of the opposition CNRP’s bylaws on Wednesday, Mr. Vuthy, known on-air as Chun Chanboth, took a moment to thank his supporters.
“Before I start the broadcast tonight, I wish to take an opportunity to thank all the listeners and all of you again for your concern and paying attention to my safety, especially your demand for me to choose freedom,” said Mr. Vuthy, who had been regularly traveling between the U.S. and Cambodia.
“After missing my voice for a few days, I have returned to provide news to all of you and my countrymen,” he said, noting that he was back on the radio on the day that commemorates press freedom.
RFA said in a statement on Monday that it had advised Mr. Vuthy not to return to Cambodia after leaving the country on April 28 because his safety could not be guaranteed, a claim officials dismissed earlier this week.
Justice and interior ministry spokesmen could not be reached on Thursday.
Cambodia dropped four places compared to last year in the annual Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, which was released last week, ranking 132nd out of 180 nations this year.