Rumpus over bride auction

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Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A group of journalists gathered near the former National Assembly building Thursday morning discuss a story published in the newspaper Koh Santepheap about a woman purported to be auctioning off a chance to marry her daughter.
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Sreung Thorn, 50: “It is like a mother selling her own daughter. Even if I didn’t have rice to eat, I would not sell my daughter.”
Pha Lina
Lay Seang, 60: “Such a headline can destroy Khmer honour if people from other countries read it without knowing the truth.”
Pha Lina
Mork Lany, 62: “It can affect women’s feelings when they see this movie and think, ‘Why are women valued so low?’”
Pha Lina
Phnom Penh Post
AN ARTICLE published in one of the country’s most widely read newspapers had some readers up in arms Thursday, incensed over a story describing how a woman intended to auction off her daughter for marriage at a starting bid of US$1 million.

The only problem: It wasn’t a news story at all, but part of a promotion for a new television movie.

The article, which was splashed on the front page of the daily Koh Santepheap, appeared to report that a local woman was driven demented over the complicated task of choosing one of many eligible suitors for her daughter’s hand in marriage. The daughter was a catch, the article declared – a beautiful woman, who was educated overseas and born of a highly honourable family, possessing all the qualities of a perfect, modern wife.

The mother planned to auction her daughter off to the highest bidder, the article read.

Tagged to the end of the story on an inside page: A sentence stating that the article actually described a new – and fictional – movie. But it appears some readers didn’t make it that far.
Lifelong Koh Santepheap reader Chhum Thy said he was shocked to hear about “the auction”.

“I think the mother considers her daughter to be like clothing, or things you can auction for other people. She is selling her daughter,” he said.

When told the article actually referred to a film, Chhum Thy said it was unacceptable for the newspaper to blur the lines between fact and fiction.
“Koh Santepheap is a famous newspaper, and it is not good that it runs false information,” he said.

A Koh Santepheap employee defended the story Thursday, saying the article shouldn’t have caused such confusion.

“It already mentions at the end of the article that it is a film advertisement,” said the employee, who asked not to be named because he was not permitted to speak on behalf of the newspaper. He said Koh Santepheap would run a clarification today.

Even though the article was fictional, however, some within the government are concerned by the apparent subject matter of the film, which is titled “Strange Couple” and is scheduled to premiere in August on Cambodia Television Network (CTN).

“I was surprised when I saw the headline in the paper. It is not good even if it is just a movie,” said Kong Kantara, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, who added that he was concerned by what he said were human trafficking connotations. “We will check the story.

We won’t allow it to have a scene about the auction,” he said.

On Thursday, the woman who wrote the film’s script defended its apparently controversial plot.

“There are many audiences who criticise my movies, but they do not follow it until the end. They just hear what other people talk about,” said Poan Phoung Bopha, CTN’s director of drama projects, who added that she planned to send a letter urging Koh Santepheap to clarify its story.

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