Cambodian editor gets asylum

alerts-button-1.jpgYou Saravuth, the former editor of local bi-weekly newspaper “Sralanh Khmer” (Love Khmer), has been given asylum in Thailand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the newspaper’s present editor Thach Keth on 25 August 2006. Reports from Cambodia said You Saravuth fled the country on 22 July after he received death threats over a published article that implicated Okhna (Lord) Hun Tho, a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in land grabbing. The former editor has also been summoned to appear in the Phnom Penh municipal court in response to a suit filed by Hun Tho for “misinformation” on the same matter.Hun Tho has denied any involvement in the death threats, claiming that when they met at his house, he had merely asked You Saravuth what evidence he had to support the allegations in the article. However, the latter alleged that Hun Tho had threatened to put him on military police surveillance.The article in the June 15-17 edition of the newspaper quoted anonymous sources close to officials in the National Land Dispute Committee as claiming that Hun Tho and the army’s deputy commander-in-chief Kun Kim illegally took over thousands of hectares in the northeastern Mondolkiri province.

Legal intimidation by the authorities and death threats over reports alleging government corruption are the most serious problems Cambodian journalists face. Despite a liberal 1993 Press Law and a recent parliamentary amendment that removed jail sentence as punishment for criminal defamation, there is still a host of punitive laws that the authorities often use. Journalists can still be jailed for “false information” under the 1992 United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia (UNTAC) laws.

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