An Open Letter to the Phnom Penh Post About a Lesbian Love TriangleAugust 19, 2008
Let me begin by congratulating you on your recent transition to daily publication. I hope you put nutty old Bernie Krisher out of business in no time.
You have always been my favorite English language newspaper in Cambodia, for one reason. The Police Blotter.Nothing entertains me (while simultaneously making me feel vastly superior to Cambodians) like a good set of “ripped from the Khmer headlines” Police Blotter blurbs. Especially the ones involving black magic, insecticide suicides, and murderous mothers-in-law.
The Police Blotter is also quite educational. It has taught me to never drink palm wine with off-duty police officers and then step on their toes while dancing at a nightclub. I was, however, shocked and disappointed to read your August 15th Police Blotter blurb titled “Lesbian Love Triangle.” The entire text of the blurb was as follows:
LESBIAN LOVE TRIANGLE
Lesbians Chhin Ren, 20, and Vat Sinay, 20, lived as a couple for one month in Battambang province when a third person, Vichheka, 20, interfered in their love. Both girls ran away from their respective family homes to be together. Chhin Ren’s family held an engagement ceremony for her and Vichheka on Thursday.
Now, I know that these “Police Blotter” blurbs are simply translated summaries of local Khmer newspaper stories. You’re not writing these stories yourself. I get it. But you should at least exercise some discretion in deciding which sensationalist Khmer stories are worthy of translation in your fine newspaper, and which ones are not.
The “Lesbian Love Triangle” blurb above has no journalistic purpose whatsoever. It does not report a crime or describe anything remotely newsworthy. All that you have done is translate the “outing,” by name and hometown, of three young women with alternative lifestyles. Because your newspaper is now online, these girls’ sexual preferences will now be a matter of record to anyone who ever “googles” their names. Surely the jilted Vat Sinay has suffered enough.
The backwards Khmer press may think it is okay to name and shame lesbians in order to sell papers, but I expect much more from a newspaper of your stature. If Koh Santepheap reporters started hanging out at Calmette Hospital and publishing the names of AIDS patients, would you translate that too? Your paper should be setting the standard for journalistic ethics in Cambodia, not following the lead of irresponsible Khmer tabloids.
Lastly, if you are going to insist on continuing to name and shame young lesbian lovers in your newspaper, could you at least start publishing some photos of the little dykes along with the stories? Nothing spices up a good lesbian love triangle story like some hot pictures. Preferably some candid shots of the girls fighting, kissing, or washing a car.