Police Officer Sued Over Alleged Threat to Shoot Journalist

A journalist in Pailin province yesterday filed a lawsuit against a local police officer for allegedly threatening to kill him if he published a story about a drunken shooting spree the officer went on last week.

Ouk Touch, a reporter for the Kampuchea Aphivat newspaper and the online Chhantak Khmer News, said he and two other journalists from other news organizations had traveled to Sala Krao district on Sunday to interview residents about the April 4 shooting.

He said villagers blamed the shooting on district police officer Khea Sokhorn and showed them four bullet casings and two bullet holes in one of their homes. No one was hurt.

Mr. Touch said he had returned home from the village that afternoon and Mr. Sokhorn showed up at about 5:20 p.m.

“He rode a Scoopy motorbike and brought an AK rifle and parked in front of my house,” he said. “He asked me, ‘Why did you go to do interviews to write about my story? If I shoot, it’s my right and you can’t make it public.’”

After the officer stepped into his house, Mr. Touch said, “he grabbed his rifle and walked around pointing it at me. I was really concerned that he might shoot me. I went closer to him to try and calm him down…. I told him I would not write the story.”

The officer left soon after, and Mr. Touch, along with other reporters, did publish the story about the April 4 shooting. Mr. Touch said he also reported the alleged threat to district and provincial police, but that they showed little interest, prompting him to file a complaint with the provincial court.

“I will be really worried about my family’s safety if the authorities don’t take action against him,” he said. “I think this is a serious violation against a journalist.”

Chum Sen Sothea, chief prosecutor at the Kratie Provincial Court, said he had received the complaint and would issue a summons today, asking Mr. Sokhorn to appear for questioning sometime after the Khmer New Year holiday, which ends Saturday.

Mr. Sokhorn could not be reached, but his boss, district police chief Nhik Thol, denied that his officer had made a threat.

“He just went to ask the journalist questions. He did not make a threat or point a gun at anyone. I think someone is exaggerating the situation,” he said.

Mr. Thol said his officer did fire his rifle while drunk on April 4 and might lose his job. But the police chief said he would not be sending his subordinate to court.

“Probably not,” he said. “It’s normal; he was too drunk to control himself, so he fired his gun playfully.”

Run Sareth, publisher of both Kampuchea Aphivat and Chhantak Khmer News, said he had urged his reporter to file the lawsuit.

“We cannot accept that the police officer used his AK to threaten our reporter at his home,” he said. “We suggest the court take action according to the law.”

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