1999, 55 Minutes
A look at Cambodia through the eyes of a small group of journalists working on The Phnom Penh Post, an independent English language newspaper that chronicled this rapidly changing nation during the 1990s. The main protagonists are the American editor and publisher, Michael Hayes, and his band of expatriate and Khmer reporters. Their contrasting views bring new layers of insight, pathos and sometimes humour to one of the greatest national dramas of the late 20th century.
The film begins in the tumultuous aftermath of the national elections in 1998, which were organised by Hun Sen (Cambodian People's Party) as a result of a violent coup in 1997, in which Second Prime Minister Hun Sen toppled his former coalition partner, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. After the election there is no coalition government in place, the country seems on the verge of economic collapse and the paper itself is struggling to survive.
But just as the paper is going to press, news comes in that opposition leaders Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy are returning, paving the way for the formation of a new government. The change of mood is palpable as hope emerges that the country and the paper might get back on their feet.
As the story unfolds we witness several events: the dramatic surrender of young Khmer Rouge leader, Non Nou, as he and his troops emerge from the jungle on the Thai-Cambodian border; an expose on the dumping of toxic waste in Sihanoukville by a Taiwanese plastics company; the bizarre and chilling press conference with Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea; and the daily challenges of putting a paper out in third world conditions.
A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Evershine Pty Ltd. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director/Writer: Hugh Piper
Producer/Cinematographer: Helen Barrow
Khmer musicians: Soth Tek; Ath Rous; Dara Rous
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Environmental Studies; International Studies; Journalism; Politics; Southeast Asian History.