Amid the newspapers and fashion magazines on Cambodian newsstands, readers may soon find a more political addition: “The Voice of Funcinpec,” the royalist party’s new promotional publication.
An airbrushed portrait of Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh featured on the cover of the first issue of the magazine, which was dated Dec 29 and was packed with affirmations of the CPP-Funcinpec coalition.
The bulletin consisted largely of reprinted speeches by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh dating from the party’s Nov 14-15 congress.
“The magazine focuses on the alliance of the CPP and Funcinpec, and on His Majesty Prince [Ranariddh’s] activities,” publisher Nop Phorn explained of the magazine, which comes out twice a month.
He said 3,000 or 4,000 copies of each edition, which costs $0.18, will be distributed for free to party members in Cambodia and overseas, and eventually sold on newsstands.
“It is not about making money…. The benefit is publication of the party president’s activities,” explained Chea Chanboribo, Funcinpec spokesman and Information Ministry secretary of state.
But newsstand owners voiced skepticism about whether the publication would sell. They said readers were only interested in political news when it was fresh, and added that it needed an astrology section and ghost stories.
Nhem Kha, a motorbike taxi driver, said he would probably avoid the magazine.
“I don’t want to know about politics—it gives me a headache,” he said.
Media trainer Moeun Chhean Nariddh compared the magazine, which is funded by party members, to older, communist-style publications.
“A communist propaganda bulletin tends to show the leader at the top, while a serious news bulletin deals with the ordinary people, the victims first—it is reversed,” he said. “As a reader, we must not take this kind of bulletin at face value. We have to read between the lines to see what is missing, what they don’t tell us. We have to be skeptical all the time.”
Few said they had seen the as yet sparsely-distributed bulletin on Wednesday.
But opposition party lawmaker Yim Sovann said its focus on Funcinpec’s alliance with the CPP was a warning sign for the state of Funcinpec.
“I think Funcinpec and CPP now become one party, and there is no other choice for Funcinpec. Funcinpec is going to die in the next few years…. They have no principles and no clear platform,” he said.
He added that Funcinpec, in supporting the CPP, has lost the royalist, pro-democratic appearance that drew many of its supporters.
But Mao Ayuth, CPP secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said the subject matter was accurate.
“We are in government [together, so] it is right to talk about cooperation,” he said.
Chea Chanboribo added that the bulletin focused on the coalition because it is key to peace in Cambodia. The opposition, not Funcinpec, should be concerned, he said.
“Funcinpec is not getting weak because the president is in the country to lead all members. The president has not fled,” he said, alluding to opposition leader Sam Rainsy. “Funcinpec’s role in government also strengthens the party,” he said.