Ministry of Information officials say they are considering a proposal to grant a license to Voice of America (VOA) for an FM radio station in Phnom Penh.
VOA director Sanford Ungar met with ministry officials and National Assembly chairman Prince Norodom Ranariddh. The broadcast service, based in the US capital of Washington, already broadcasts at AM frequency 1575, with one hour of Khmer language programs daily from 8:30-9:30 pm.
The Prince said he supported the plan because impartial radio helps promote the democratic process and human rights education in Cambodia. “We can’t see this [proposal] as a problem,” said Minister of Information Lu Laysreng.
The Cambodian government hasn’t always felt so kindly toward foreign broadcast services. Radio Free Asia (RFA) began short-wave broadcasting into Cambodia in 1997.
In December of that year, the pro-CPP newspaper Cholana Thmei (New Movement) accused both networks of referring to the factional fighting in July 1997 as a coup d’etat and blaming forces allied with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In April of 1999, government officials denied an application by RFA for an FM station. This came one week after RFA thought they had a signed contract for the station with the Ministry of Information. Ministry officials later denied a contract was finalized.
Lu Laysreng said he would reconsider an FM license with RFA if the network was willing to negotiate.