A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Cambodia pulls up daily over Myanmar supplement

Phnom Penh, May 19 : The Cambodian government Monday confiscated the Cambodia Daily newspaper from news-stands over a supplement called The Burma Daily, the Information Ministry and the newspaper's publisher said.

The official ministry explanation was that the confiscation was ordered because The Burma Daily, which had appeared since last week as a four-page insert with an identical masthead as its sister publication, was not licensed.

But publisher Bernard Krisher argued that the paper did not need a license because it was a supplement and the decision to confiscate the English and Khmer-language daily, which has a circulation of about 5,000, reflected badly on the government.

He vowed to continue to print The Burma Daily for several more days as planned even if it were confiscated. After its printing is finished, it is to become an online and mail publication for distribution in Myanmar.

"The Burma Daily has no political agenda," he said by telephone. "It is designed to introduce to the Burmese (Myanmar) people what a free and responsible newspaper looks like."

Krisher said he had not spoken to the ministry about the reasons for confiscating the paper, which is viewed by expatriates as a primary source of daily news in English.

"I don't have to explain to anyone," he said. "The New York Times does not explain to President George W. Bush."

Media analysts speculated that the government might fear that the often anti-government Cambodia Daily might embarrass it by taking a similar approach to Myanmar's military junta.

Cambodia and Myanmar have maintained warm relations despite an international outcry over Myanmar's appalling human rights record.

The nation's largest journalism association, the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said it was investigating the confiscation of the newspapers.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith was not available for comment Monday.

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