Sok Sovann, chief of the Khmer Journalists Democracy Association, is seeking the release of journalist Chhorn Chansophal, 41, the Kompong Thom province bureau chief for Raksmei Aesan News, who he claims was wrongly arrested Oct 13 on charges of interfering with police.
Sok Sovann said Tuesday that the arrest occurred after Chhorn Chansophal, while reporting a story on police vice raids in Stung Sen district’s Achar Leak commune, took a photo of a police officer pushing a beer promotion girl into a police vehicle. “Kompong Thom police and court officials regard journalists as their enemies, and they obstruct journalists from reporting,” he said.
Police told a far different story.
According to commune police chief Sun Kreoun and district police chief Nhem Chhunly, Chhorn Chansophal, had been mentioned by name in the arrest warrant issued by Provincial Prosecutor Ty Sovin Thal for the Oct 13 vice raid, and the journalist was charged with debauchery.
Kun Sitha, an investigator for local rights group Adhoc in Kompong Thom, supported the police chief’s claims. She said Wednesday that Chhorn Chansophal had rented a room in an Achar Leak commune house to a woman who was selling sexual services on the premises. “I saw her name on the arrest warrant, and she had been warned and signed deals with the police many times,” she said.
Chhorn Chansophal’s lawyer, Tit Shavuthy, confirmed that his client had been charged with debauchery, but said that the charges were not legitimate.
He said that the house in question did not belong to the reporter. He added that even if someone had been selling sex out of the house, the charge of debauchery against Chhorn Chansophal would only be applicable if she had made money from the prostitution, and he insisted that she had not.
The judge assigned to Chhorn Chansophal’s case, Thong Phalla Rainsey, said Tuesday that his investigation is ongoing, and that no trial date had been set.