Siem Reap Provincial Court yesterday charged four men with fraud for allegedly blackmail a villager over cutting down trees in the province’s Chi Kreng district, officials said.
The men, who claim to be reporters working for two little-known local newspapers, were arrested on Tuesday after they extorted money from a resident of Khvav commune’s Ou village, district police chief Toch Sakol said.
Chan Saroeurn, 44, Mao Sareth, 49, and a man going by the pen name Norodom Rithivong, 60, all of whom claimed to work for Cochin Sin newspaper, and Him Sann, 46, from Ta Prumb newspaper, threatened to expose in print a villager cutting down trees, Mr Sakol said.
“Our villagers are very poor. They are farmers and need timber to build their wooden houses. Those reporters, by going to the village and extorting money, they misused their profession,” Mr Sakol said.
The men photographed Nhim Dam, 40, taking half a meter of wood from the forest to build his house, he said. Initially the so-called reporters demanded $50 to buy their silence, but later settled on $12.50 and were paid $7.50 upfront, he added.
In response, villagers filed complaints with the district police, who arrested the men when they returned to the village yesterday morning in order to extort more money, Mr Sakol said.
The men were remanded in pretrial detention at Siem Reap provincial prison after being charged yesterday, provincial court chief prosecutor Ty Sovannthal said.
Siem Reap police in April arrested a journalist from leading Khmer newspaper Koh Santepheap for extorting money from a timber seller. Later that month, another journalist for little-known newspaper New Light was arrested in the province under similar circumstances.