The FCC had a legendary name by the time I arrived as bureau chief for Agence France-Presse in 2001, but it was in name only.
Journalist numbers had dwindled, and a chorus of reporters complained it was no longer a real club. Indochina Assets had seized control, the names and contents on the premises, amid one spurious claim that permission had been granted by the board. FCCs exist in Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and South Korea alongside like-minded groups around the world, all non-profit with elected boards and paid-up memberships.
Our FCC had none of this and had morphed into a theme bar for tourists arriving by coach.
The constitution was changed. The FCC no longer represented journalists; that side of the equation was renamed the Foreign Journalists’ Club of Cambodia (FJCC). To ensure some kind of journalistic feel, Indochina Assets inserted in the constitution “the FJCC shall enjoy a special relationship with the FCC” – anathema for any journalists worth their salt.
As a sitting board member of the FCC in Hong Kong, I was acutely aware of the extreme irritation the FCC in Cambodia had caused among legitimate press outlets.
In the main bar of the FCC – on a dark and stormy night – an upset Leo Dobbs asked me to get involved. Importantly, all past presidents are life members and can vote. Proxies were garnered, a quorum formed, and a new board constituted. A year of legal work formalised the divorce between the FJCC and the FCC, culminating with a name change to the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia (OPCC).
Indochina Assets had registered every conceivable name that had a journalistic ring or a similar acronym to the FCC. The OPCC was taken from the Overseas Press Club in New York, one name that had escaped the attention of Indochina Assets. Our New York namesake even sent a journalist to monitor an annual meeting.
To bolster membership the OPCC was opened up to foreign journalists working for local newspapers like the Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily, and the club has flourished with about 50 paid-up members and the odd Booze Cruise on the Mekong thrown in for good measure.
Luke Hunt is a freelance journalist.
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