AKP Reporter Charged With Extortion Over Timber Haul

A reporter for state news service Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP) was charged Wednesday for allegedly attempting to extort money from a truck driver in Preah Vihear province over a haul of high-grade timber, officials said on Thursday.

Provincial penal police chief Khat Hun said that Tith Sro, 43, had threatened to report truck driver Chheang Mao to authorities over the shipment of first-grade Phchoek logs on February 6 unless he was paid $400.

“We arrested Tith Sro because he attempted to extort money twice from Chheang Mao, and he confessed that he committed the crime,” Mr. Hun said.

He said the journalist was arrested after the logger set up a meeting to hand over $250.

Mr. Mao said he initially offered to pay $200 but turned to the police when the reporter started demanding more cash.

“I agreed to give him $200 but he would not agree, so that’s why I decided to file a complaint with police. Before that he had repeatedly called me and threatened me, saying that if I didn’t give him $400 I would not transport any wood in the future,” Mr. Mao said.

Another journalist, Chhoeung Chan, 45, a reporter for Apsara Morning Television, admitted to stopping the truck driver along with Mr. Sro and receiving a $25 payment but refuted the claim that he extorted money.

“I will not escape from going to testify in court because I did not attempt to extort money from the truck driver…but Mr. Sro asked for $400 from [him],” he said.

Police say a third journalist was also involved but they do not yet know that person’s identity.

Provincial court prosecutor Long Sitha confirmed that Mr. Sro had been charged with extortion.

Sok Mom Nimul, AKP’s director general, confirmed that Mr. Sro is employed by AKP in Preah Vihear but declined to comment further.

“I received information about the arrest of Tith Sro and we are working on this case,” she said.

pheap@cambodiadaily.com

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