Rasmei Kampuchea Editor Dead at 54

Pen Samithy, editor-in-chief of the Rasmei Kampuchea Daily newspaper and long-serving president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, died in Phnom Penh on Monday. He was 54.

“My father died from his sickness this morning,” said his son, Pen Sihaneat, on Monday. Mr. Sihaneat did not say what illness led to his father’s death, but the well-known journalist has received treatment for throat cancer in the past.

Pen Samithy (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Pen Samithy (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Born in Kompong Cham province’s Kompong Siem district in October 1961, as a teenager Pen Samithy was evacuated to Prey Veng province during the Khmer Rouge period, and briefly entered the monkhood there upon the regime’s fall in 1979, according to a statement the Club of Cambodian Journalists released Monday.

Moving to Phnom Penh shortly thereafter, he found work in the new Vietnamese-backed regime’s propaganda department in 1979, and worked from 1981 as a journalist and an editor at a number of state-run newspapers in the capital.

Amid the Cold War politics of the time, Pen Samithy graduated with a diploma in political science in 1986 from a university in Vietnam and in 1987 earned a diploma in journalism in the Soviet Union.

Returning to his work as an editor in Phnom Penh, Pen Samithy in April 1993 became editor-in-chief of Rasmei Kampuchea, one of the most widely read daily newspapers in the country.

Pen Samithy served in the role until his death, while also becoming the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists in 2000 and establishing the Cambodia Express News website in 2008.

Nguon Seroth, his colleague, said a funeral ceremony that began Monday would finish on Thursday, before the late journalist’s body is cremated at Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka pagoda.

Pen Samithy is survived by his wife, daughter and Mr. Sihaneat.

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