Prosecutors in Kompong Speu province have ordered police to reinvestigate the demise of a newspaper reporter who was reportedly bludgeoned to death by an angry mob on Sunday, while the victim’s family and employer cast doubt on the official version of events.
The reporter, Meng Chhoeun, 37, who worked for the little-known Rasmei Preah Vihear Newspaper,was killed on Sunday, supposedly because he stole a Honda Dream motorbike from under a house and was beaten with wooden sticks by a 60-strong mob of local men in Kong Pisei district’s Veal commune.
However, with the help of the newspaper’s publisher and the Press Council of Cambodia, Meng Chhoeun’s wife is planning to file a complaint with the Kompong Speu Provincial Court and the Interior Ministry challenging this version of events.
And the court has already ordered authorities to take another look at the case, according to the deputy provincial police chief, Saom Bora.
“We are reinvestigating the case of the mob killing,” Mr. Bora said, declining to elaborate on what had motivated the court’s order.
The dead man’s wife, Huot Sophorn, said she became suspicious when she received her husband’s body back from police and saw that it had three gashes on the head and neck, indicating an attack with a blade, rather than a beating with sticks.
“My husband was cut and chopped by a machete or ax, but the police showed me only wooden sticks,” Ms. Sophorn said.
“My husband had one Tacoma car and three mobile phones, including one smartphone that cost $500,” she added. “I don’t believe my husband was a thief.”
Sok Sovann, head of the Press Council of Cambodia, and Khun Dim, publisher of Rasmei Preah Vihear, said they had looked into the circumstances surrounding the killing and would help Ms. Sophorn press her case.
“We interviewed villagers from one village to another village, including the commune police chief, and they said they only heard villagers yelling ‘Thief! Thief!’ but in fact no villager said they saw the victim die,” Mr. Dim said.
According to the publisher, Rasmei Preah Vihear is printed only once a month and focuses entirely on stories about illegal gambling and logging. Meng Chhoeun became a reporter there about three years ago after previously working as a van driver who transported female beer promoters to various drinking establishments.