[Sent to Phnom Penh Post in November 2009. Not published.]

The Post’s front-page November 4 article on the Cambodian military budget says that “observers” are critical of an increase in such spending. Only two named individuals, Ou Virak and Chea Vannath, are quoted to that effect. Two other individuals, Cheam Yeap and Kem Sokha, are quoted as supporting the increase.

Hence it appears that the Post does not regard Kem Sokha as an observer, although I am very strongly convinced that I have seen him described as an observer in the past.

Regardless of the specifics of Kem Sokha’s status, this raises the question of what the Post means by the term “observer”. In normal English, the word means a person who observes, and thus could apply to just about anyone. The Post seems to give it a much more restricted meaning, which perhaps should be explained in a brief line on the masthead: “‘Observer’ in this publication means someone whose opinions we would like to publicise.”

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