CPP-Friendly Businessman Launches Newspaper

T Mohan, a Malaysian publisher and businessman arrested in the 1990s for attempting to extort a casino executive, is back in Cambodia’s newspaper market.

The Khmer Times, the latest English-language news offering from Mr. Mohan, hit newsstands earlier this month, with a government spokesman even resigning his position to report for the newspaper.

The second edition of the Khmer Times is displayed for sale at a newspaper stall along Street 51 in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa)
The second edition of the Khmer Times is displayed for sale at a newspaper stall along Street 51 in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa)

The paper’s second weekly edition was released Friday, after an inaugural issue on May 2, and features stories about calls for the ruling CPP to enact reforms to ensure its electoral survival, a profile on the “human side” of opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua and a feature about the country’s political situation.

“Mark, an Australian tourist who has been to Cambodia a couple times, said that he doesn’t really know much about politics in Cambodia, but he feels there is quite a bit of unrest at the moment,” reads the feature on its fourth page.

The paper also features an opinion section led by its editor, U.S. citizen Mariam Arthur. In the second issue, Ms. Arthur writes that the turmoil of Egypt over the past few years—and the rise and fall of ousted President Mohamed Morsi—should be noted by those in Cambodia who she says call for revolution rather than slow reform.

“In March of this year, 529 Morsi supporters were sentenced to death,” Ms. Arthur notes. “If Cambodia was to have a ‘Khmer Spring,’ it means that whoever leads the new government after a forceful revolution would be doomed to be overthrown by their own supporters when they are not satisfied with the results.”

“Violent demonstrations and riots never end,” Ms. Arthur concludes.

Both Ms. Arthur and Mr. Mohan, who is also listed on the newspaper’s masthead as its managing editor, declined to be interviewed for this article.

“I believe the newspaper speaks for itself,” Ms. Arthur wrote in an email.

Mr. Mohan previously edited the Kuala Lumpur-based English-language Cambodia Times newspaper between 1993 and 1995 and then served as publisher-editor for The Vision until it collapsed in June 2000.

According to sub-decrees issued in the Royal Gazette in February 2011, Mr. Mohan currently chairs a company with a 7,187 hectare economic land concession in Kampot province’s Phnom Bokor National Park.

Mr. Mohan also wrote a series of spurious features about an insurgent group in the northern provinces called the “Khmer Serey” in 1999, which were widely dismissed. He was then arrested and released in 2000 for attempting to extort $5,000 from NagaWorld Casino’s vice president Song Meng Kong, supposedly on the insurgent group’s behalf.

Ek Madra, the now-retired government spokesman who is listed as one of eight reporters for the Khmer Times, said Monday that he has retained a position as a civil servant in the Council of Ministers’ press department.

Mr. Madra worked at The Cambodia Daily and Reuters in the 1990s and 2000s before becoming a government spokesman under the name Ek Tha in 2009.

“I write for the newspaper and it has nothing to do with my job. I am a full-time civil servant and on the weekends I write articles to support my living,” he said.

Mr. Madra has an article in the paper’s second edition about the successful efforts of Cabinet Minister Sok An—his boss at the Council of Ministers—to return the 10th-century Duryodhana statue to Cambodia from the U.S. last week.

“I don’t want to be a spokesman and write articles at the same time, as I would be accused of having a conflict of interest,” Mr. Madra said.

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