Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sok Kanitha, famed for her social media show with all the answers, takes photos by Apsara dancer art works. KANITHA VIA FB

Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500 shares before the day was over.

“Why was NATO launched? I found some comments from our Cambodian netizens saying that the reason Russia invaded Ukraine was because NATO provoked Russia. So today I’d like to explain why NATO was created,” said the professional know-it-all, now in her thirties.

Kanitha’s show – primarily released and distributed via her Facebook page – began along with the pandemic, when she was determined to share accurate information about the virus and cut down on the panic and misinformation that was flooding Khmer-language social media.

Now, several years later, she’s got several hundred videos produced and a large following in Cambodia and abroad of Khmer-language speakers who appreciate her intellect and insights and trust her views on anything she cares to opine on.

“It all started in January 2020 and it just continued to snowball and morph into something else entirely,” said Kanitha.

Kanitha has dealt with a wide range of topics on her eponymously named “The Kanitha Show” and she’s managed to do it authoritatively and convincingly whether the show was about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, musical styles, raising kids or health issues like Covid-19.

Though Kanitha was born in Phnom Penh, she was mostly raised in Sihanoukville from the time she was a newborn baby.

“My childhood up until my adulthood pretty much all took place in Sihanoukville. Like all children in Sihanoukville, I loved to go to the beach and wander around with my friends all day – despite my parents trying to stop me. We’d eat snacks and desserts from street vendors and ride our bikes around town,” she said.

Being a self-identified “rascal”, every time she got home from her adventures outside, her mother would always wait for her by the door to reprimand her.

Those were good times that Kanitha said she will never forget – even the punishments. By the time she was in her twenties her parents began bothering her about finding a husband.

After years of nagging and complaints it became such a nuisance that Kanitha said she found herself a husband and got married – and then they immediately flew to California and relocated there.

“I’m more of a lay-person that is interested in a lot of general stuff than a specialist or expert in one area. I find that people tend to associate or identify themselves with something they’ve studied or practiced professionally – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but I guess for me there isn’t anything I want to identify myself with,” Kanitha told The Post.

Kanitha says that she just likes to talk about things that she finds important, though she herself concedes that almost everything in life is important to somebody.

She always discusses things on social media in a way that will persuade others to her view by providing photos, videos and other data to prove her points and this has attracted an audience who find her communication style helpful and informative but not overly academic.

“I try to talk about a variety of things, as much as possible, while I still can. You never know what’s going to happen in life or how things might work out and I may regret it later if I don’t,” said Kanitha.

Kanitha said running a popular social media page isn’t all it’s cut out to be. There are endless annoyances associated with the duty and it’s exhausting sometimes to shoot and edit the videos.

In particular, she said, she has to deal with all of the trolls and people messaging her every day – she gets hundreds of messages per day, some of them malicious and not worth a moment of her time, but many of them are from well-meaning people who simply disagree, and others are people who are looking for additional information.

Then there are the Facebook technical guidelines and the comments and the group moderations and on and on.

“There’s like a million things going on all at once. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic to have a page with a lot of followers, but a lot of people don’t fully understand the difficulties and the challenges of maintaining a popular Facebook page,” said Kanitha, who adds that she has several children now so she isn’t lacking in things to do all day.

“Initially, I started the page to reduce misinformation online and the best way to do that is to have a page that promotes fact-based information. Then as time went on I wanted to pitch in a little more, as they say, so my goal now is to build a library of videos or something like that. Big mistake! Things like that aren’t cheap it turns out. But I guess if there’s a will, there’s a way and only time will tell,” she says.

Kanitha – whose twin sister still lives in Cambodia – said that people often wonder how she understands so many topics or knows so much research on them, but she admits herself that she isn’t some kind of living encyclopedia and her memory isn’t even that good in fact.

She said that she chooses her topics based on what people are saying in the comments section on her videos and posts. Whatever she feels needs a little clarification she then goes about the process of making a video on it.

That means, initially, spending time on research. Some topics she already knows about, but many of them require that she verify her opinions by reading expert views or digging up specific information like dates or names or places.

“My husband also contributes to the page with video editing here and there. He has his own occupation, but whenever I need help he comes and helps me. Besides that, I have some friends in Phnom Penh who are operating the library in The Kanitha Show store they are maintaining,” she said.

Kanitha said that the only constraint she has with all of this is time. Each video can take anywhere between 10 to 20 hrs of production and editing and time devoted to the page is time deprived from other aspects of her life such as parenting and other kinds of work.

Aside from The Kanitha Show, Kanitha also has The Kanitha Society, a library and a learning centre for The Kanitha Show’s followers.

“There’s a cost to everything, but the joy I’ve gotten from running The Kanitha Show is immeasurable,” said Kanitha, who also welcomes donations from people to support her page if they appreciate it as an information resource.

She said that she tries to raise awareness about certain issues that she thinks could be beneficial to the community, but when it comes to politics she said she is definitely unqualified to chime in on most topics.

The reason is that she really doesn’t know much about it, she claims, because there are just so many moving pieces to it all and so much history with so many individuals all competing with one another, so without understanding exactly where they stand and what exactly happened to them it’s hard to pick who is right or wrong on any given point.

“I’m just like everyone else. I know as much as the next person. I only want to talk about things that are within my circle of competence. I will leave the politics to other people who are better qualified than I am,” said Kanitha. “Doing the show has been an amazing journey. Thank you all for your support.”