Cambodian Journalism Review

AEA Cambodia Communications Director Dies As A Child’s Life Is Saved In Road Crash
October 17, 2016, 2:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

AEA Cambodia Communications Director Dies  

As A Child’s Life Is Saved In Road Crash


Sek Barisoth, Communications Director for Aid et Action in Cambodia and mentor to a generation of Cambodian journalists, died in a traffic accident in Cambodia on Sunday. He was officially 51 though he was nine years older in reality. He is survived by his wife and two teenaged sons.

Mr. Barisoth joined AEA in March 2016 shortly after he had completed a consultancy work for the organization to produce stories about children’s education in Cambodia.

As the Communications Director, Mr. Barisoth has made a huge accomplishment in ensuring and encouraging disabled, indigenous and other children who had abandoned their studies or didn’t have the opportunities to go to school to go to school as part of the efforts of the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children. As a result, around 40,000 such marginalized children have picked up their school bags, books and pens and sat in classrooms with other Cambodian students at different schools in the 25 cities and provinces across the country.

On the day he died, Mr. Barisoth was traveling with three other colleagues to hold a learning forum and conduct training on school governance and advocacy with 20 other NGO partners for school principals and school support committees in the remote province of Rattanakiri, home to different ethnic minority groups whose children are one of the targets of AEA’s CCOSC program.

Mr. Barisoth might not have finished his unfinished job to send all children to school. However, a child’s life was saved while Mr. Barisoth’s life was lost during the accident.

In a country where hit-and-run crashes make headlines on a regular basis, the AEA’s driver and team members in the car led by Mr. Barisoth made a decision that any child caring people would do by driving the car into road side ditch to avoid hitting the child who was running across the highway. The car rolled over several times, sending Mr. Barisoth to his death and injuring the driver and two other passengers.

Before joining AEA, Mr. Barisoth had had a long career as an English translator and teacher, a journalist, a communication specialist and a media trainer and lecturer. The list goes on.

After surviving the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror between 1975 and 1979, Mr. Barisoth decided to reduce his age by nine years like many Cambodians of his generation so that he could continue his studies to make up for the time lost during the Khmer Rouge period and the five-year civil war earlier.

After he completed high school in 1984, Mr. Barisoth joined the Cambodian News Agency as Chief of Media Translator and later as the Head of the Current Affair Bureau who translated and checked news articles from English and French into Khmer language besides writing editorials and news analysis.

In 1992 as free press was introduced to Cambodia following the Paris Peace Agreement a year earlier, Mr. Barisoth was employed by UNESCO as a media program assistant before rising to the position of the Director of the UNESCO-run Cambodia Communication Institute between 1997 and 2003.

Mr. Barisoth’s career had taken him to different places, including the Cambodian International Academy (2003-2005), Pact Cambodia as Director of Anti-Corruption and Media Program (2005-2012), UNODC as National Program Officer (2012-2013), Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Department of Media and Communication (DMC) as Journalism Lecturer (2010-2016), Advocacy and Policy Institute as Technical Advisor (2013-2015), American University of Phnom Penh as Director of Communications (2015-2016) and Cambodia Institute for Media Studies as Board Chairman (2015-2016).

Nevertheless, Mr. Barisoth’s multi-skilled jobs from one organization to another might not be possible without his seemingly endless studies from English language to political science and journalism and media management inside Cambodia and abroad.

In 1989, he spent a year at Moscow Academy of Social Science studying political science, which earned him a diploma in equivalence to a post graduate degree. He was more or less overwhelmed by the Russian philosophy.

In sharp contrast, Mr. Barisoth became dominated by western ideology and democratic principles after spending four months at Alabama University in the United States in 1995, where he studied journalism skills. A year later, he went to Denmark for three months to study media management skills.

Probably having mentored by both philosophies and ideologies, Mr. Barisoth seemed to have made friends and socialized well with friends and colleagues from all ideologies and political spectrums in the government and civil society organizations. He had developed a non-confrontational attitude and approach when dealing with sensitive and controversial issues like anti-corruption and media ethics.

Upon hearing about his death, Prime Minister Hun Sen sent his condolences and donated 10 million riels (about 2,500 US dollars) for the funeral, while Information Minister Khieu Kanharith donated 500 dollars separately.

Soon after the news of his death was spread, condolences have poured in through Facebook pages and mainstreams media by colleagues and friends who remember him as a respectful, compassionate and hard-working man.

“In memory of these great people who spent their whole life for the sake of journalism: Sek Barisoth, Pen Samithy and Reach Sambath,” writes DMC Director Som Ratana. “Their leaving is a great loss for us all.”

“Feeling shocked and sad to hear that Mr. Sek Barisoth passed away by a car accident…,” says Pouv Savuth, Training Manager at the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, in his Facebook page.

“I have lost another good friend,” writes Steven Pak. “We used to make common accomplishments together at the CCI from 1995 to 2000 to train Cambodian journalists in all 24 provinces. I am very shocked and sad to hear the news.”

Probably Aid et Action and the children in its program have felt the direct impact of the loss of its committed Communications Director like Mr. Sek Barisoth.

“He was a role model who had the passion and dedicated his life by using his different skills and knowledge with his colleagues for the sake of Cambodian children so that those who didn’t have the opportunities to go to school or had dropped of school could go to school,” says Vorn Samphors, Country Director of Aid et Action.


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