TV Anchor Switches Stations, Ups Rhetoric

After a month’s absence, pro-government TV personality Soy Sopheap returned to the airwaves on Wednesday night on a new network, echoing Prime Minster Hun Sen’s recent invective against the Thai government in a heated tone.

Mr Sopheap, 38, who left the CTN network at the end of last year, reappeared on Bayon TV shortly before 10 pm for the first of what will be a live, weekly current affairs program.

“You are a family of thieves,” Mr Sopheap said of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was appointed in December 2008 by a fragile coalition of lawmakers after the court-ordered dissolution of a competing party. “You stole power from the winning party.”

Making hand gestures at the camera, Mr Sopheap was joined by fellow anchor Rith Cheatra, deputy director of Bayon TV, as they accused the Thai government of belittling former Thai King Chulalongkorn by failing to respect early 20th century Franco-Thai agreements made about the Cambodian border.

In contrast, Mr Hun Sen, a “Royal sword,” enjoyed the support of Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni, they said.

Reached by telephone yesterday, Mr Sopheap said he was seeking to advance the government’s agenda even more actively than he had done at CTN.

“My stance is more serious than at CTN. We are working for the general public because they own the vote. As you know, Bayon TV belongs to the Prime Minister’s daughter,” he said, referring to Bayon Director-General Hun Mana. “We do work toward the government’s policy. This [government] mandate is for historic reforms.”

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said yesterday that Mr Sopheap’s appearances were “automatic propaganda for the government.”

Mr Sopheap is bringing change to the airwaves, said Mr Chhean Nariddh, adding that the question was whether this change serves the public interest or political interests.

“If Mr Pheap does not work for the public, the TV will lose its audience,” said Mr Chhean Nariddh. “In the 1980s, all the media supported the government 100 percent but later on they reformed for their own audience. CTN is reforming for their own professionalism but if other TVs do not reform, they will lose their own audiences.”


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