by Bob Padula
I recently spent three weeks in
Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, on my way to the European
DX Council Conference in Finland. Whilst in
South Asia, I gained an appreciation of current
HF broadcasting in the countries of the region,
which continues to show steady decline in favour
of more efficient and effective delivery over medium-wave
and VHF-FM facilities. This account of Cambodian
broadcasting may be of interest, based on my "on-the-ground"
monitoring from the region!
Kampuchea, Cambodia, Khmer and
Ankor are all names associated with a single Asian
civilisation renowned for its art and architecture.
Kambujadesa or Kambuja is a Sanskrit
name for the modern country of Cambodia. The word
derives from a tribe in north India and is associated
with Kambu Svayambhuva, the legendary founder of
the Khmer civilisation.
Kampuchea, a modern version of
the name, was part of the official title of the
country as recently as 1989. European transliterations
of Kambuja became Cambodge in French and Cambodia
in English, which is the present day name.
The modern capital of Cambodia
is Phnom Penh (phnom meaning hill),
in the south. The inhabitants are Khmers or Cambodians,
and in the past the country has also been called
The correct name of the national
language is Khmer (not Cambodian as used
by some writers). French is widely understood. The
written language dates from the 7th century in a
script of Indian origin. Mixtures of Sanskrit, Pali,
Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese vocabulary are commonnplace.
The Khmer language belongs to
the family Mon-Khmer. Other languages within this
group include those spoken in Myanmar (Mon), Vietnam,
Laos, and parts of Malaysia.
The word Kampuchea is
frequently heard in identification announcements
over Cambodian broadcasters.
is in the south-west of the Indo-China Peninsula
(Indo-China means "between India and China"),
of an area of 181,000 sq.km, divided into 18 provinces.
It is bordered on the west by Thailand, Laos in
the north, and Vietnam in the south and east. It
has about 100 km of coastline on the Gulf of Thailand.
It has a vast inland lake, known as Tonle Sap, (Great
Lake), near Siem Reap. The Mekong River runs through
the centre, from Laos to Vietnam. The main towns
outside of Phnom Penh are Siem Reap, Battambang,
Kompong Cham, and Sihanoukville.
The massive urban exodus of 1975-78
under Pol Pot severely depleted the populations
of the major towns and cities. In that period, hundreds
of thousands of people died from brutal treatment,
starvation, and disease. The Khmer Rouge massacred
thousands of people at the "killing fields"
by torture, hanging, and decapitation, with massive
numbers of intellectuals and academics being murdered
as the innocent victims of mass genocide.
There are some 11,000 km or roads,
but only about 2,000 km are surfaced. The telephone
system is rudimentary, and virtually non-existent
outside of the major cities.
The average life expectancy for
males is 50, and 52 for females.
The Cambodian Radio no longer
has a specific external service. Twice each day,
a 75 minute service in English, French, Thai, Lao
and Vietnamese (15 mins for each language) is broadcast
from 0000-0115 and 1200-1315, using the single frequency
of 11940. No medium-wave channel could be found
for either transmission, even though 1260 kHz is
listed in some sources. Commencement time varies,
and some days the morning service is the air as
early as 2350 (6.50 am local time).
These services are intended for
foreigners in Cambodia (there is no Khmer segment)
and consist mainly of vocal and instrumental contemporary
music, generally old Western songs, and modern Thai/Lao/Vietnamese
pieces. There are very few announcements. Some transmissions
do not have any announcements at all!
Modulation quality is terrible,
with bad audio distortion, and there is severe frequency
drift down to 11937 at times. Signal level is very
weak, even in the Phnom Penh area. The morning service
experiences severe interference from CRI on 11945.
The service is audible in Laos and Thailand, subject
to the above constraints, but it is questionable
whether an audience actually exists!
It would appear that the service
was originally only on MW and then extended to SW.
There was a frequency of 9695/9693 used many years
ago, believed to be from the same technically unstable
The transmitting site for this
service is adjacent to the unsealed bumpy road leading
to the Genocidal Memorial and Killing Fields, about
2 km from the centre of Phnom Penh. The site also
contains the 200 kW MW txer on 918 kHz, which is
a vertical radiator. The site also has several curtain
arrays and dipoles, one of which appears to be used
for 11940. It is not known what the other arrays
are used for, if they are used at all.
The 918 kHz mast actually rises
from a swamp, and the HF installation is surrounded
by a high stone wall, much of it crumbling. The
site buildings looked very old and under-maintained.
There is very little MW activity
in Cambodia. This is confined to a single Government-controlled
network, originating from Phnom Penh, on 918 kHz,
with 120 kW, 2230-1500. Transmissions open with
a religious feature, corresponding to 6.30 am local
time. I was unable to find any other MW services
broadcasting from the country!
From reception locations in Phnom
Penh (south) and Siem Reap (west, the MW band is
a cacophony of innumerable Vietnamese and Thai stations,
both during daytime and evening. Phnom Penh is only
50 km from the Vietnamese border.
FM broadcasting is modest, with
several private stations in operation in Phnom Penh
and Siem Reap. Channel spacing is 0.5 MHz, beginning
at 88.0 mHz. Siem Reap is the large town in the
west adjacent to the Ankor Wat historical site,
where I stayed, and is the centre for visits to
the temple complexes. The most well-known temple
is Ankor Wat, over 1000 years old. The word Wat
In Phnom Penh, the main FM stations
88.0 Voice of Khmer
89.5 Voice of the New Life (this has Vietnamese
at various times)
92.0 Radio France International (French) 24-hr relay)
95.0 Radio Bayon
97.0 Radio Apsara (has extensive segments about
travelling and tourism)
97.5 Municipality Radio (Full time English pop music
98.0 FM98 music format
100.0 BBC World Service 24-hr relay
103.0 Municipality Radio
102.0 Radio Womens' Centre of Cambodia
105.0 Radio Beehive (talkback format)
107.0 FM107 English talkback ("On the Road"
Saturdays and Sundays)
In Siem Reap, only three FM stations
92.0 Radio France International
(French) networked with Phnom Penh also 92.0
93.0 Radio Bayon*
(* The word "Bayon"
refers to a classical Cambodian art-style, depicted
extensively throughout the historical monuments
and ancient ruins)
By world standards, radio broadcasting
in Cambodia is quite small, and the HF service would
appear to be very nearly extinct. Little funding
is available for extension of existing facilities,
and the country relies heavily on grants and support
from other regions. The Australian Government has
invested heavily in major infrastructure projects,
including bridges and roads, and has also contributed
substantial funds for management of conservation
and restoration works for the ancient monuments.
site of Ankor has been included on the UNESCO World
Heritage List of over 400 sites. Additional international
aid has been provided by France and Japan. The Royal
Government of Cambodia acknowledges the earning
potential of the historic monuments as major tourist
Published on September