PHNOM PENH : A newspaper hailed as Cambodia's last independent English daily has been sold to a Malaysian investor with apparent business links to premier Hun Sen, rattling a journalist community that has been battered by the strongman ahead of elections. 

Bill Clough, the Australian publisher of the 26-year-old Phnom Penh Post, said in a statement Saturday that the paper had been purchased by a Malaysian investor identified solely as "Sivakumar G".

A person close to the matter confirmed to AFP that the buyer is the head of Asia PR, a public relations firm based in Kuala Lumpur whose website describes its CEO "Siva Kumar G" as a journalist by training.  The website lists as a former client Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose government stands accused of a sweeping crackdown on independent media, NGOs and rival politicians.

The sale, which caught the newspaper's staff by surprise, swiftly raised concerns about a contracting space for independent media in a country that lost its other main English newspaper last year. "The Post is really the last remaining newspaper that comes out every day and does long investigations on corruption, illegal logging and politics," said Abby Seiff, a Cambodia-based freelance journalist and former Phnom Penh Post editor.

"The journalist community is concerned about what the implication (of the sale) could be. It's just two months until the election and there's not much independent media left," she added.

In his statement, former owner Clough acknowledged that "turbulence" in Cambodia ahead of elections had put a spotlight on the Phnom Penh Post and left it as "the last remaining truly independent media group in the country".