Beyond the Mekong

Editing Cambodian News: A Conversation With Alan Parkhouse

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Beyond the Mekong | Society | Southeast Asia

Editing Cambodian News: A Conversation With Alan Parkhouse

The veteran editor on winning awards, breaking news, and managing journalists.

Editing Cambodian News: A Conversation With Alan Parkhouse

Alan Parkhouse near his home by the Ping River in Kamphaeng Phet, Thailand.

Credit: Luke Hunt

Australian journalist Alan Parkhouse holds the rare distinction of having served as editor of both The Phnom Penh Post and its rival, the Khmer Times, at a time when journalistic freedoms in Cambodia were much greater than they are today.

During his long career, Parkhouse witnessed all sides of the Cambodian media business as the erosion of those freedoms gathered pace in the late 2010s, amid a crackdown on political dissent that enabled the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to secure absolute control of the country.

Earlier this month, The Phnom Penh Post announced that it would stop publishing its print edition by the end of March due to financial strains, ending an era that began almost 32 years ago when American Michael Hayes and his then wife Kathleen O’Keefe launched the paper with their life savings.

They sold the newspaper to Australian mining magnate Bill Clough in 2008, who was forced to sell nine years later to government-friendly interests after being hit with an exorbitant tax bill.

Parkhouse began his career as an apprentice hot metal printer – known as a hand and machine compositor – at the Daily Examiner in Grafton, in northern New South Wales, before heading to Sydney where he worked on daily newspapers as a journalist before moving to The Nation in Bangkok in 1990.

He was the editor of The Phnom Penh Post from 2010 to 2014, then published by Clough, and the Khmer Times from 2016 to 2018, then as now published by Mohan Tirugmanasam Bandam, and he says the difference between the two operations was great.

Parkhouse has recently retired and now lives in Kamphaeng Phet in northwest Thailand, where he spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt about his time at The Phnom Penh Post and the Khmer Times, the journalists, the stories they covered, and the awards that they won.

In 2013, The Phnom Penh Post won the gold prize awarded by the World Association of Newspapers for a 68-page supplement celebrating 20 years of the newspaper, beating off stiff competition from the China Daily, which was led by Karl Wilson, and the Financial Times.