Kompong Thom Police Arrest 7 in Illegal Checkpoint Racket

Police in Kompong Thom province Wednesday arrested seven people allegedly involved in an illegal checkpoint racket, while an eighth escaped with handcuffs on and is at large.

Shortly before 7 a.m., a joint task force of police and military police descended on an illegal checkpoint staffed by four military police, a journalist, an NGO worker and a district environment official, successfully apprehending all except the journalist, said deputy provincial police chief Ke Khannara.

At about noon, a second journalist was arrested at a separate location, Mr. Khannara added.

“We cracked down on these people because they have set up the checkpoint and demanded money from drivers and passengers without having permission to do so,” he said.

“The authorities always educate all of these units [military police, NGOs, officials] on how to spot an illegal checkpoint, but these officials disobeyed the orders and created their own.”

Deputy provincial prosecutor Say Nora said he was still questioning the seven suspects last night. He explained that they would likely be released after thumb-printing written agreements that they will not relaunch the illegal scheme.

“After questioning, those suspects must make contracts to stop them from doing these illegal activities in the future,” he said. “We will call their superiors to ensure that they are aware.”

The seven taken into custody were provincial military police officers San Tha and Proeung Chhum; Kompong Svay district military police Le Chanden and Khiev Theng; Keo Samnang of Apsara Net; a district environment official identified only as Puch; and an unidentified staffer of a local NGO.

Kong Sovann, the Kompong Thom correspondent for Apsara Net, remains on the run. A ninth suspect is also being sought by police.

Police said the journalists were used to threaten commuters carrying illegally logged timber and that they had been investigating the team for many months before the sting.

Mar Yarith, Apsara Net news editor at Apsara TV, declined to comment on the arrests.

Mr. Nora, the deputy prosecutor, said that there would be no more illegal checkpoints.

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