A reporter for the US-government funded Radio Free Asia has gone into hiding after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of being rude last week, the International Federation of Journalists said.
A colleague of the reporter, Um Sarin, said Wednesday that he has left Cambodia for Thailand in the wake of Hun Sen’s comment, and was “worried for his situation.”
IFJ said in a Monday statement that Hun Sen took issue with Um Sarin outside the National Assembly on May 17, after the reporter questioned the future of the coalition between Funcinpec and the ruling CPP.
Hun Sen, who had attended the Assembly for a vote to replace Funcinpec Tourism Minister Lay Prohas with the CPP’s Thong Khon, responded by describing RFA as “insolent,” adding that “the reporter who asks the question is more insolent,” IFJ said.
“It is unacceptable that the prime minister has so publicly shown such contempt and disrespect for a journalist and the role of the media,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said in the statement.
Neither Information Minister Khieu Kanharith nor Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yentieng could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that Um Sarin has nothing to fear, adding that Hun Sen’s remarks should be viewed as a mark of endearment.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] liked him, that’s why he insulted him,” Khieu Sopheak said. “It is like a father [reprimanding] his son.”
A fellow RFA reporter in Phnom Penh said on condition of anonymity that Um Sarin, who is also president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, left for Thailand on Monday.
“He went to Thailand on the same day the prime minister went to Burma, just to take a break for a while,” he said. “He was worried for his situation,” the colleague added.