Allegations of Death Threats After Illegal Logging Reports

A journalist has filed a complaint with the Pursat provincial court alleging that a soldier threatened to kill him on Sunday after he wrote a series of damning articles linking the soldier to illegal rosewood trafficking, court officials confirmed Tuesday.

Both the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the provincial court said they will investigate the case.

Sak Rom, a reporter from the Kapit Local Newspaper in Phnom Kravanh district who also wrote stories for national news agency Nokorwat, said he filed the complaint on Monday.

“At 8:05 p.m. Sunday, Mr. Suos Touch and four other men wearing civilian clothing drove to my house and threatened to kill me if I continued to write articles about their trafficking luxury wood,” said Mr. Rom.

“Mr. Suos Touch told me to be careful with my reporting because I previously reported their activity in trafficking luxury wood and shared some articles with Nokorwat News Daily,” he said, adding that the soldier was carrying his gun.

Neak Sovann, a clerk for provincial prosecutor Ton Sihatechas, confirmed they had received the allegation and would “pass the complaint to the provincial prosecutor to investigate this weekend.”

“The complaint accused the soldier of public insult, making a death threat and entering his house without permission,” he added.

Mr. Touch could not be reached for comment but his superiors said they were aware of the case and were conducting investigations of their own.

“We will cooperate with the police if he is summoned by court,” said Brigadier General Chhum Senghorn, chief of staff of RCAF 14th Intervention Brigade.

“We don’t know whether he is a rosewood trafficker or not, but he can’t make death threats to a journalist.”

Major General Kim Seng Ngon, Commander of RCAF 14th Intervention Brigade, said Mr. Touch would be called for questioning today.

“I will ask why the report accused him [of trafficking] and ask him why he had a gun” when he spoke with the reporter, he said.

“I will not be biased. If he did as he was accused, he should face the law.”

Local rights group Adhoc said it, too, would investigate the complaint.

“It is a serious violation of human rights because journalists or people should be allowed to report true information,” said Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Phuong Sothea.

This year has seen a spate of threats directed at journalists covering illegal logging. In April, the Club of Cambodian Journalists issued a statement of concern over the cases of three journalists in Preah Vihear, Pursat and Kompong Cham provinces who were harassed while documenting illegal logging.

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