Cambodia Daily publishers banned from leaving Cambodia

Published:  5 Sep at 6 PM
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In a further attack on the publishers of the now closed Cambodia Daily English language newspaper, the General Department of Taxation has prohibited them from leaving the country until the $6 million dollar back tax bill is paid.

The paper, like many expat daily news outlets worldwide, is said to have always operated at a loss, leaving its expat readers angry and confused as to the viability of the tax bill and the as-yet undisclosed reasons behind the order. After its closure, its publishers claimed the bill was an orchestrated attack on free press in Cambodia by the country’s ruler and refused to pay the bill under any circumstances. Its editor-in-chief Jodie DeJonge apologised to her expat readers, saying her team had wanted to continue bringing independent news for many more years and adding she’d received encouragement from both Cambodia-based readers and international readers from across the globe.

A statement in the paper’s final issue explained the government had threatened to prosecute its new owner, Deborah Krisher-Steele, for certain actions by its former owner, her father Bernard Krishner. The new owner’s company is based in Japan and general manager Douglas Steele is a Cambodian resident. Both Mr Steele and Ms Krisher Steele are now prevented from leaving the country until the tax bill is paid in full. Travellers leaving from Phnom Penh airport reported seeing papers on the departure passport control desks showing Douglas Steele’s name in large letters alongside his passport number.

The paper’s 24 years of hard-hitting reports on Cambodia ended several days after a government-led purge of 19 independent radio stations took effect across the country. Both listeners and managers are unhappy with the closures, with literally millions of citizens and expats now cut off from broadcasts. Stations affected include Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Voice of Democracy, giving a solid indication of the reasons for their closure. Two radio stations which continued to broadcast programming from two of the banned outlets are now off air, and the US’s funded broadcasting outlets in rural Cambodia have shut down.

Over the past several years, Cambodia has been seen as an alternative destination for Thailand-based expats fearful for their futures under the present military government. The closure of the Cambodia Daily and popular US-funded radio stations may well cause consternation amongst those already settled in the country as well as those still planning the move.
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