Journalist Flees Country Days Before Scheduled Court Date

A Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalist, who is scheduled to be questioned in court on Tuesday over allegations that he falsely identified himself during a prison visit with opposition officials last month, left the country for Thailand on Friday, an official said on Sunday.

Huot Khin Vuthy, the station’s deputy director for Cambodia, is accused of false declaration, a charge that carries up to two years in prison, for allegedly signing in to Prey Sar prison as an opposition CNRP assistant, a Justice Ministry spokesman said last week.

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CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Khin Vuthy, known on-air as Chun Chanboth, has denied the accusations, stating he left the space for his job title blank.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on Sunday that the journalist left Phnom Penh for Bangkok on Friday afternoon, according to reports from airport authorities.

“So far, I have not received any court warrant or any instruction to ban him from leaving the country,” General Sopheak said.

But if Mr. Khin Vuthy didn’t appear in court on Tuesday, the government would take action against him, Gen. Sopheak said, without elaborating.

In a public Facebook post on Sunday, Mr. Khin Vuthy thanked listeners and his countrymen for their support, without saying where he was or whether he intended to appear in court.

“Recent events have made me learn from a lot of new experiences. Based on my life experience, it helped me to make the right decision,” he said.

Mr. Khin Vuthy could not be contacted on Sunday to comment further.

CNRP lawmakers Long Ry and Mu Sochua were questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday and Friday, respectively, as witnesses. They were part of an opposition delegation, joined by Mr. Khin Vuthy, visiting 16 imprisoned CNRP officials and activists on April 19.

Mr. Ry, Ms. Sochua and RFA representatives in Washington could not be reached on Sunday, but in a statement released on Thursday, RFA said Mr. Khin Vuthy was innocent of any wrongdoing and that the court summons would not stop the station from delivering the news.

“It is beyond reason that authorities would target, harass and threaten a journalist for doing his job,” the statement says.

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