Although I usually refrain from commenting on current events in Cambodia when I am not there one bit of news caught my eye when I glanced through the SRP-mouthpiece KI-Media recently. It is only there that one can usually find little tidbits about Cambodia that are not reported in the international press, or even in the English papers in Phnom Penh. As an aside, only one of the two is of significance, and that is the Phnom Penh Post. The Cambodia Daily is usually very thin on domestic news and practically only prints wire services news. As for the Khmer-language papers, their standard is pretty poor. They publish uncorroborated stories and have no qualms about taking money for presenting one particular viewpoint; all this besides their normal blood and gore stories.
But back to the main point. I read that the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights of the U. S. Congress is going to hold a public hearing on Cambodia. According to a report on Radio Free Asia, that commission plans to invite Mu Sochua and others to testify on the state of human rights abuses in Cambodia. Now first, I was wondering why Cambodia showed up on the commission's radar all of a sudden. In the past U. S. politicians rarely showed an interest in what was going on in Cambodia – probably for a good reason. Perhaps they did not want to be confronted with Cambodia’s history and the U. S.’s involvement there, e. g. toppling Sihanouk in 1970, illegally bombarding Cambodia, thereby killings thousands of Khmer, supporting the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese, etc. So I checked with the commission whether this hearing was really on the agenda. As it happens, it is not. There is no hearing scheduled for September at all. So I don’t know where RFA got their news, but it sounds like a little bit of misinformation. RFA is somewhat controversial to begin with. It is financed by the U. S. Congress, but many question its reason for existing these days. If I remember correctly, there was even a call by a Congressman to stop financing it. After all, to disseminate U. S. propaganda they have the Voice of America. But the Congress has more important matters to deliberate on these days so this was forgotten and fell through the cracks of the political machinery. RFA is supposed to reach people that don’t otherwise have access to free news. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Cambodia. Even if most of the press is government-friendly, people have access to the internet, can read the New York Times or any other newspaper online, can watch BBC news on cable TV, and so on and so forth.
Why then does RFA have a Khmer service? Maybe there is a power group that successfully lobbies for this service to be maintained. Surely, the SRP must have a hand in this, as both Sam Rainsy and Mu Suchua are frequent guests on their programs and get a nice forum for free - nothing reprehensible about that actually. Now that actually makes me scratch my head again. Why do these two seek out mostly overseas forums for their interviews and reports on Cambodia? Well, I can imagine that they don’t get as much play in the Khmer press as in RFA-like media. But who actually listens to RFA in Cambodia? I would bet they don’t reach a whole lot of regular Khmer, and it would appear those are the ones they need to reach with their message. It is as though they are preaching to the choir. They don’t need to convince overseas Khmer, or foreigners for that matter, now do they? If they are playing to foreign governments or nations, they should have realized by now that these may lend an open ear to their complaints but for the most part won’t act. I am an ardent follower of news about Cambodia, even when I am not there. I find the international press is mostly silent on Cambodian affairs. So then why don’t these two use their efforts on the Khmer at home - or are their appearances overseas just for fundraising purposes? I guess so.