Journalists, Publisher Arrested Over Alleged Timber Extortion

Three reporters and a publisher were arrested in two separate cases of attempted extortion in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces on Sunday after stopping vehicles suspected of carrying illegally logged timber, according to local authorities.

Mom Mon, 54, and Kim Noeun, 28, reporters for the Sangkum Khmer and Cheat Khmer Rous newspapers respectively, were arrested along with Kim Sovannarith, 41, publisher of Neakareach newspaper, and his wife Tri Chantha, 32, after they allegedly stopped two trucks transporting Thnong timber in Sesan district’s Talat commune on Sunday, Sy Sameath, Stung Treng provincial military criminal police chief, said Monday.

“We arrested those people while they were stopping two homemade trucks for the extortion of $500 from the truck owner,” Mr. Sameath said.

The owners of the trucks reportedly refused the suspects’ demands and immediately called authorities to inform them of the incident.

“We received a telephone call from the truck owner and we went to the scene and arrested those journalists immediately,” said Mr. Sameath, adding that the accused are now being detained at the provincial military headquarters and will be sent to court today.

This is the fifth case of reporters attempting to extort money from timber trucks in Stung Treng in the past year, Mr. Sameath said.

In a separate case, a reporter from the Cambodian Watching Association was arrested Sunday in Kratie province’s Snuol district accused of attempting to extort money from a taxi driver, according to the district police chief.

Chea Mab, 29, allegedly stopped taxi drivers to look for illegal timber. When Mr. Mab tried to extort money from a driver carrying no wood, the driver called the authorities on him, said district police chief Chan Sokkim.

“We arrested this reporter while he was parking his car on the way to extort money from taxi drivers,” he said.

Mr. Mab was sent to the provincial court Monday, where he was charged with extortion.

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