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Former Broadcaster Describes Decades of VOA Khmer History

  • Im Sothearith
  • VOA Khmer

Retired VOA Khmer staff Ang Khen, on 'Hello VOA' on Monday.

Retired VOA Khmer staff Ang Khen, on 'Hello VOA' on Monday.

Ang Khen was one of the first staff members of a refreshed VOA Khmer, when the service opened in 1962 following a hiatus. She was 21 years old, and one of few female broadcasters.

As a guest on “Hello VOA” Monday, the now retired Ang Khen said she had been the only female staff member for the Khmer service, which marked its 55th anniversary on Sunday. But she said she believed in the service's principles of truth, timeliness and objectivity.

Callers flooded the phones on Monday night, as old fans heard Ang Khen again for the first time in years.

“Since I was born, whenever VOA Khmer was on, I heard Ang Khen's voice,” caller Kong Kea of Takeo province said. “VOA is independent and brings the world close to its listeners. Everything broadcast by VOA is true. Listening to VOA is like traveling the world.”

Kong Kea asked how Ang Khen had passed an examination—at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh—to become a broadcaster.

Ang Khen said she had gone to Preah Norodom middle school and an all-girls high school in Phnom Penh. She won a scholarship to study English in the US state of Oregon. When she saw an announcement for the VOA position, she jumped at it, she said. She wasn't sure how she passed the test, but she said she had felt fortunate to have a job at the broadcast agency.

She went on to become a broadcaster through a multitude of world events: from the moon landing, the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, through the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US and the subsequent war on terror.

“I am a witness to changes in world history,” she said.

Now that she has retired, she reads books, especially those about women world leaders. She also recently read a biography of former president Jimmy Carter, who, she said, practices democracy even at home: He takes a vote on the family's next holiday.