TV Reporter Captured Years After Extortion Charges

A former television reporter was jailed in Pursat province on Sunday to await trial on three-year-old extortion charges for allegedly threatening to report villagers in Pursat province for illegally transporting timber. 

Pak Sina, 32, was arrested on Friday in Battambang City, where he had been working for a local newspaper, and was transferred to Pursat province the same day, said Mo Lida, chief of the Pursat police department’s minor crimes bureau. 

In 2013, Mr. Sina, who then worked for Bayon TV, and three other reporters from local newspapers were accused of targeting villagers transporting wood by ox cart that they intended to use to build fences around their homes in Pursat’s Phnom Kravanh district, according to provincial court clerk Sou Sothearith. 

He declined to say how much money the journalists allegedly “extorted from the local people.”

Mr. Sothearith said Mr. Sina was charged in absentia with extortion on September 16, 2013, but had already fled the province. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Pursat Provincial Court last month after authorities in Battambang heard that he was hiding in the province, he said.

The clerk declined to identify the other three journalists charged in the case, or the newspapers for which they worked in 2013. 

“The three journalists are already charged and we will arrest them if we see them anytime,” Mr. Sothearith said.

Bayon TV is owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest daughter, Hun Mana. Bayon’s news manager, Sao Phirun, said that Mr. Sina had never worked for the station.

Mr. Lida, the bureau chief, said Mr. Sina was questioned at the Pursat court after his arrest on Sunday, then sent to the provincial prison to await trial.

Extortion carries a penalty of two to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million riel, or about $2,500.

The use of media credentials to threaten uneducated villagers remains an unfortunate problem in Cambodia, said Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies.

“We are grieving that some journalists commit crimes such as extorting money from illegal businesses,” he said. “I think authorities should use the Criminal Code to arrest them.”

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Clarification: This article has been updated to include a response from Bayon TV.

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