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Party Leader To Protest TV Host Remarks

Phnom Penh authorities have green-lighted a demonstration to be led by Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay against a television political commentator, officials said Monday.

No date has been set for a demonstration, against Cambodian Television Network commentator Soy Sopheap, which could be held in front of CTN headquarters in Phnom Penh, Nhiek Bun Chhay said.

Nhiek Bun Chhay claims Soy Sopheap slandered the reputation of his party, which was once a rival to the ruling party but is now a diminished coalition partner, in comments made March 12.

The party is preparing for district and provincial council elections in May.

“My party’s commune activists were unhappy when they heard Soy Sopheap announcement on the 12th about Funcinpec’s reputation,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said. “I received a lot of complaints from them against Soy Sopheap.”

Soy Sopheap hosts a political show, “Thursday Talk,” which airs every Thursday night.

Soy Sopheap said Monday he was expressing his opinion, legal under the constitution.

“If you are a politician, you should be able to receive constructive criticism,” he told VOA Khmer.

Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said Monday the demonstration marked the first time a senior political figure demonstrated against a journalist.

“Nhiek Bun Chhay should have another solution against Soy Sopheap, such as writing an official letter to him asking for an apology, or filing a complaint to the court,” Pen Samithy said.

Reached by phone in Beijing Monday, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema told VOA Khmer he had not received the complaint, but said that as a high-ranking official, Nhiek Bun Chhay should not choose a demonstration as a resolution.

“If you think an announcement affects your party, you should ask [the commentator] to correct his mistake or file a complaint to the court,” Kep Chuktema said.