Officer Detained, Probed Over Death Threat Against Journalist

Pailin provincial police say they are detaining a district warrant officer while they investigate allegations that he shot up a house while drunk and threatened to kill a journalist who planned to write about it.

Ouk Touch, a local journalist, filed a complaint at the Pailin Provincial Court on Monday accusing district police officer Khea Sokhorn of threatening to shoot him the day before unless he promised not to report on the officer’s drunken shooting spree in Sala Krao district on the night of April 4. The shooting did not injure anyone, but left at least two bullet holes in one home.

Deputy provincial police chief Yim Sambath, who is in charge of the case, said Mr. Sokhorn had been transferred from the district police station to the provincial headquarters on Tuesday and would be held there over the Khmer New Year holiday while they investigated.

If the allegations proved true, he said, the police officer might be demoted or fired, or sent to court to face formal charges “if it is serious.”

Mr. Sambath said the officer had confessed to threatening the journalist, but denied pointing his rifle at him.

“[Mr. Sokhorn] shot to scare away a chicken thief at his farm, so he wondered why [Mr. Touch] wanted to report about it and defame him,” he said.

“He was angry and could not control his feelings and had too much to drink, but from what I have learned, he did not threaten to shoot and kill the journalist.”

Mr. Touch, who said he had interviewed residents at the scene of the April 4 shooting for his story, rejected the deputy police chief’s explanation.

“The residents said he shot at their homes on purpose. No one believed he shot to scare away thieves trying to steal his chickens. He has no chicken farm there,” he said. “I think it was just an excuse.”

The journalist said he had received a summons from the provincial court calling him in for questioning about the alleged death threat on April 20 and would attend.

On Monday, chief prosecutor Chum Sen Sothea said he planned to summon the police officer.

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