Journalists Get 5-Year Sentences for Extortion

Three journalists were sentenced to five years imprisonment by Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court Wednesday for extorting $75 from a woman they had ac­cused of trafficking women to Thai­land, court officials said Thurs­day.

Two of the journalists, Khin Thy, 37, and Kong Vuthy, 28, worked for the little-know Kam­pu­cha Roth newspaper. The third, Un Som, 42, worked at the equally ob­­scure Cheat Yerng newspaper.

Banteay Meanchey Chief Pro­se­cutor Nhoung Thol said that two middlemen, whom he ac­cused of working in concert with the journalists, had been acquitted by the court, but have not been re­leased from custody pending the prosecution’s intent to appeal.

Nhoung Thol said the middlemen had been sent to collect the ex­tortion money from Theang Sat, 53. No evidence had arisen to im­plicate Theang Sat in trafficking, and she has not been charged with any crime, he added.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Thursday that the court’s decision seemed “a bit tough” but declined to further comment until he had examined court documents.

Pen Samithi, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said the whole event seemed “ab­normal.” Though the three journalists imprisoned were not members of his club, Pen Samithi urged police to investigate the case further.

“Police should take evidence from [the] journalists to find out if the woman was trafficking,” he said.

Responding to reports of in­juries the journalists sustained during their pre-trial detention, Ban­teay Meanchey Deputy judiciary po­lice Chief Chhoeung Sokhom de­nied allegations that the three had been mistreated. But the journalists had been beaten by other in­mates who were angered after be­ing told that they had to share their food with the three, he said.

Chhoeung Sokhom also de­fended Theang Sat, saying she was not a human trafficker. How­ever, he confirmed that Theang Sat had taken a Cambodian wo­man to Thailand for work and that her family later accused Theang Sat of trafficking the woman.

According to Chhoeung Sok­hom, the woman eventually re­turned and exonerated Theang Sat.

Presiding Judge Ney Yaran could not be reached for comment Thursday.


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