Hun Sen orders shutdown of independent local news outlet in Cambodia

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the shutdown of one of the last independent local news organizations in the country on Sunday night, saying it had attacked him and his son and hurt the country.

The Voice of Democracy, also known as VOD, will no longer have a license to publish or broadcast from 10am local time on Monday, the prime minister said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page.

He ordered Phnom Penh police to “keep order” but not seize property. He said foreign donors to VOD should take back their money and its staff should find new jobs.

“Commentators tried to attack me and my son Hun Manet,” Hun Sen wrote. He said a VOD story published earlier this week had hurt the “dignity and reputation” of the Cambodian government, and he ordered the Ministry of Information to cancel VOD’s license.

VOD on Wednesday published a story on Cambodia’s earthquake aid to Turkey. The story quoted government spokesperson Phay Siphan saying the prime minister’s son and presumed successor Hun Manet had signed the aid agreement. Hun Manet is the joint chief of staff and deputy commander for the country’s armed forces, and signing such an agreement appeared to have overstepped the bounds of his position.

Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest-serving dictators, on whose watch political rivals have been jailed and exiled, critical media outlets shuttered and civil dissent crushed, demanded a public apology.

The NGO that runs VOD, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, sent a letter to Hun Sen’s Cabinet saying it was sorry for any confusion it may have caused and explaining that VOD had quoted government spokesman Phay Siphan. Hun Sen said the response was unacceptable.

Phay Siphan and the media director for CCIM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

VOD is not the first media organization to be shut down in Cambodia. The Cambodia Daily was shut down in late 2017 after being given one month to pay millions in back taxes that the publication disputed.

The paper had a reputation for breaking news on tough issues and was shut months ahead of the last general election in 2018. The next general election is due to be held in July.

By Clare Baldwin Reuters


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