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Former opposition lawmaker’s books seized

Pav Suy / Khmer Times Share:
The banned book. Swift News

Officials from Phnom Penh’s culture department, in collaboration with police, yesterday seized copies of an unauthorised book written by former opposition lawmaker Yem Ponhearith.

The book “Vision to National Reconciliation and Social Arrangement” was written in Khmer by Mr Ponhearith and published without permission from the Culture Ministry, officials said.

The author claimed that it teaches readers to participate and be leaders in decision-making processes and how to live in society while respecting laws, but the ministry said it can incite and create public disorder.

Toek La’ak I commune police chief Ma Eng Ngoun yesterday said authorities checked book stores near the Santhormuk High School to see if any were selling the book.

“The raid was conducted by the higher authorities and we only cooperated in it,” he said. “The officials seized several copies of Mr Ponhearith’s book, which they said were not authorised for publication.”

In a report after the raid, authorities said they seized 21 books from a shop and took them to the department of culture.

A vendor shows one of the banned books. Swift News

They said the store owner, Chum Sophalla, 61, was detained for questioning and freed after signing a promise not to sell unauthorised books again.

Chum Vuthy, culture department director, yesterday said that the raid was not solely targeting Mr Ponhearith’s book, but also any other books which were found to be inciting the public and being published without authorisation.

“We keep checking other districts and places for such materials from time to time,” he said. “We look for books that do not have permission for them to be published.”

“Authors need to obtain a Culture Ministry licence for books to be published,” he added.

Mr Vuthy said that the ministry’s department in charge of regulating reading materials works closely with the National Police’s internal security department to weed out books that could incite the public.

“We do so in order to find the authors to make some changes before reapplying for permission to have the books published,” he said.

Mr Ponhearith, who fled the country after his party was disbanded by the Supreme Court, could not be reached for comment.

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