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Government Threatens RFA With Potential Lawsuit Over Border Report

  • Heng Reaksmey

A screenshot of Radio Free Asia's Khmer Service report bout the potential government lawsuit, March 28, 2013.

A screenshot of Radio Free Asia's Khmer Service report bout the potential government lawsuit, March 28, 2013.

A government spokesman on Thursday warned US broadcaster Radio Free Asia against potentially inciting reporting on land loss along the Thai border, calling it a “national security” issue that could prompt legal action.

RFA, a US-funded broadcasting agency, aired an interview earlier this week with a former Khmer Rouge soldier in the border province of Battambang who said the Cambodian boundary had lost around 10 kilometers to Thailand in recent decades.

Land loss to regional neighbors is a political and social flashpoint for many Cambodians and has in the past sparked riots, demonstrations and, in 2008, a military standoff with Thailand that lasted for years.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told reporters on Thursday the government would consider a lawsuit against RFA for its border reporting if it deemed the reports threatening to national security.

However, media advocates say the government should seek to correct what it deems as erroneous reporting through the media itself, or the press law, and not through lawsuits.

RFA said in statement it stands by the story, which was “accurate, objective and well-sourced.”

“The Cambodian government’s attack on RFA is just the latest in a series of public and private threats that fit a distinct pattern—one meant to intimidate our reporters and to discourage objective reporting on issues sensitive to the government,” RFA said. “As we have said in response to similar threats in the past, RFA will continue to provide the reliable and accurate news and information that our Cambodian listeners seek and deserve, regardless of whether the issue is sensitive to certain political parties or officials. We refuse to be intimidated and bullied into self-censorship.”

Puy Kea, of the Council of Cambodian Journalists, said the government should not use the courts to sue journalists.

Koy Pisey, deputy chief of the Cambodian Border Authority, said the borders between Cambodia and Thailand remain the same, though about 25 of 73 demarcation markers have been difficult to locate.
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