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[Cambodia] Three reporters detained for alleged extortion; deny accusation

Three Cambodian reporters were detained overnight on Wednesday, 13 February 2019 by police in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district for allegedly interrupting the business operations and extorting money from the owner of a mining pit and trucks in the area. 

They denied the charges and were released the following day. According to the police, the two parties reached a settlement, resulting in the dismissal of the complaint. It was not known if a sum was paid as part of the settlement. 

Businessman Tak Chilao filed a complaint on 12 February 2019 at the Ang Snuol district police’s headquarters against Uon Minea from Khemrak Angkor, Tun Mouv from Khmernote, and Thuok Samnang from Kampot Daily

“The three suspects committed their crimes by blocking the [business] entrance with their cars, causing obstruction on the road, before extorting USD 5,000 from my subordinates,” said the complainant. 

Ang Snuol district’s Police Chief Mean Samnang told VOD in an interview that after receiving the complaint, his officers visited the site and immediately arrested the three for questioning on Wednesday. They were released Thursday morning. 

According to the complaint, the plaintiff also demanded USD 100,000 for damages from the reporters. 

Mean Samnang confirmed the arrest. “Yes, our officers detained them for questioning. But now, they have already been released,” he said. 

The reporters could not be reached for comment. However, in their statement to police, they denied the accusation of the plaintiff. 

They said they were visiting the site to report about a deep pit, which was dug beyond the allowable limit. 

This incident involving the three reporters is the latest in a spate of recent attacks against journalists in Cambodia. 

In January 2019, Cambodia Media Association for Freedom reporter Sim Chhivchhean Piseth was violently assaulted by community members while he was covering the clearance of flooded forests around Beoung Pearaing in Siem Reap province. 

On 3 February 2019, Battambang Post reporter Sorn Sithy was killed by a group of unidentified men while he was on his way home in a village in Kratie province. 

According to the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), at least 14 local reporters have been killed since 1994. Five of them had been known for their critical reports on the ruling party while seven had investigated alleged corruption involving senior officers in the government and military. There is no available information for the remaining two.

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