The power to tax is the power to destroy. And after 24 years, one month and 15 days, the Cambodian government has destroyed The Cambodia Daily, a special and singular part Cambodia's free press.
As a result of extra-legal threats by the government to close the Daily, freeze its accounts and prosecute the new owner for the actions of the previous owner, The Bernard Krisher Jimusho Co. is unable to operate The Cambodia Daily newspaper and it will cease publication as of September 4, 2017.
The Company, owned by Deborah Krisher-Steele, purchased the assets of The Cambodia Daily in April 2017 from Mr. Bernard Krisher. The Company will revert those assets to Mr. Krisher and seek dissolution. Mr. Krisher flatly asserts that the way he operated The Cambodia Daily was lawful and invites the Government of Cambodia to prosecute him if it believes otherwise. If charged, Mr. Krisher will return to Cambodia.
There may well be a legitimate dispute between the tax department and the owners of the Daily over when tax became collectable and in what amount. In an ordinary process, matters in dispute would be resolved after an audit and private negotiations. Instead, the Daily has been targeted for an astronomical tax assessment, leaks and false statements by the tax department and public vilification by the head of government before an audit, much less a legal proceeding.
In a letter from the Director General of the tax department delivered on August 29, and a statement simultaneously leaked on the government-aligned Fresh News, the tax department accused the Daily of having, over many years, collected and exploited the VAT of "hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients and did not pay tax to the state" and threatened Deborah Krisher-Steele with prosecution for that as the criminal offense of tax evasion. Pocketing VAT would be theft and that accusation is apparently the basis for the Prime Minister's speech of August 22, calling the Daily the "chief thief."
Evidence to refute this allegation is in the purchasing records of every Ministry in this government and every embassy in the capitol. The Daily can match every dollar of tax collected with tax paid since Ms. Kirsher-Steele's company was established. For the tax department's allegation that the Daily pocketed VAT for many years to be true, there should be thousands of old invoices around the city showing whether it collected VAT. If they existed, the tax department would have leaked them to Fresh News already. Money not collected can not be stolen.
The allegations of theft are unfounded and defamatory. The campaign of leaks is unprofessional and unlawful.
The Cambodia Daily, like every English language newspaper here, operates at a loss. It has continued because it operates on a shoestring and the Krisher family has been willing to absorb those losses in order to help Cambodia create a free press and a tradition of independent journalism.
On Monday, the Daily's service to the Cambodian people will end. We want to thank our advertisers and subscribers who supported freedom of the press for so long, and our staff, who have fought fiercely and courageously to report All the News Without Fear or Favor.
Link to news release
For more information, please contact:
In Tokyo, Deborah Krisher-Steele, Deputy Publisher
In Phnom Penh, Jodie DeJonge, Editor in Chief
Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand
Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
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