Police in Phnom Penh detained a local journalist yesterday over allegations that he threatened television anchor and newspaper publisher Soy Sopheap, Deputy National Police Chief Sok Phal said.
Mr Phal said by telephone that Ros Sokhet, who has worked for numerous Khmer- and English-language publications over the years, is not under arrest, just detained.
“[Police] just called him for questioning because he used his phone to send text messages threatening others,” Mr Phal claimed, but declined to provide details.
Mr Sopheap, the publisher of Deum Ampil Newspaper and well-know political commentator with close links to the ruling CPP, said that he filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry on Oct 9 seeking the arrest of an unknown person who sent him three text messages earlier this month that he claimed were threatening. One of the SMS messages allegedly accused Mr Sopheap of extorting money from Ke Dara, the wife of an adviser to National Assembly President Heng Samrin. Ms Dara was fined and sentenced to 18 months in prison after shooting a pistol into the air in a high-profile incident in September.
“How much do you demand from Mrs Ke Dara?” the SMS read. “Her husband said u tried to extort 5000 dollars from her. Why a u so cheap conducted like this?”
Mr Sopheap said that he had known Mr Sokhet for years, and that he had no idea his acquaintance was behind the text messages until yesterday morning, when Mr Sokhet phoned him to explain that the message had been sent as a joke.
According to Mr Sopheap, Mr Sokhet called from the same number that had been used to send the SMS messages.
“I told him, let’s let the law handle this,” Mr Sopheap said, adding, “I didn’t intend to sue a journalist; I just sued the one who used the phone number.”
Mr Sopheap said he had also received a separate e-mailed death threat on Monday from a sender identified only as “Narin Oum.”
“A Soy Sopheap, Do you want to test my gun shot. Do you know how you suffered my sister. I will kill you one day,” the e-mail read.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, who has worked and studied with Mr Sokhet for the past 19 years, said yesterday that his former colleague was harmless.
“He was just bad-tempered for a moment and would become fine again,” Mr Chhean Nariddh said. “He has no means of doing [anything]; he has no weapons and no power.”
Mr Sokhet, whose whereabouts are still unknown, could not be reached by telephone yesterday.