Cambodia paper is latest victim of intensifying crackdown

The Cambodian government should end its politically motivated threats and legal action to close the independent Cambodia Daily, Human Rights Watch said today. However, the newspaper said in a statement that “the company will revert those assets to Mr. Krisher and seek dissolution”. “We normally write about others”. The Cambodia Daily has always been a thorn in his side. About half the Daily’s 30 editorial staff were Cambodian; the other half were foreigners drawn from around the world.

This is not the first time Hun Sen has harassed the media.

The last edition sold out quickly.

“It’s a dark day for press freedom in Cambodia”, editor Jodie DeJonge told AFP news agency on Sunday.

“When I was there, we tried to remain neutral and to report both sides of the story”, she says.

In recent weeks, Mr. Hun Sen’s government has cracked down on independent news outlets and democracy advocates. It’s also part of a major shift away from American influence, which has waned for years as Cambodia edges closer to China.

The government also ordered the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy nonprofit organization that is loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party of the United States.

The United States and the European Union (EU) condemned the detention of opposition leader Kem Sokha, who is accused of plotting with USA support, and the steps against the media that forced the independent Cambodia Daily newspaper to shut yesterday. “How will the Cambodian people be able to evaluate or access real information?” asked Yi Chhorvorn, managing director of Mohanokor Radio, which was among those shuttered with little explanation.

THE LEADER of Cambodia’s leading opposition party was arrested for “treason” on Sunday amid a crackdown against the country’s political opposition, the news media and civil society organisations ahead of 2018 national elections. Government investigations about possible taxes owed by these three groups – the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) – are ongoing.

But free speech, she said, is critical for Cambodia to grow. “It’s about giving democracy a chance”.

During his rule Cambodia has been transformed from a failed state after the genocide of the Khmer Rouge, in which he was once a soldier. “They run against a walking dead party and still barely win”, Sophal Ear said, referring to the 2013 elections, adding: “Could it be that people actually want change?”

The Cambodia Daily was founded by American journalist Bernard Krisher in 1993 and Hun Sen this year berated some of its journalists as “servants of foreigners”.

The paper is not the only independent media organisation to come under pressure. Foreign investors can now clearly see how the government treats businesses it doesn’t like and how quickly they can be closed through non-transparent means. The Daily has not been allowed to appeal. However, it alleged the tax authorities did not follow due process.

“Cambodia’s allies and donors should condemn this latest attack on democracy, and summon Cambodian ambassadors overseas to explain their government’s actions”, Sifton’s statement said.

A few had tears in their eyes. “Who is going to shine a light on that now?”

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