Reporters Claim Soldiers Obstructed Story

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldiers in Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district briefly detained 10 journalists and cameramen for trespassing yesterday as they attempted to report on migrant workers illegally crossing the border into Thailand, an official said.

The reporters said, however, that they were detained in retaliation for stories they had broadcast or published about the soldiers’ involvement in cross-border smuggling.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers and reporters stand in a road Monday leading to a border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province's Malai district. (Ke Vuthy)
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers and reporters stand in a road Monday leading to a border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province’s Malai district. (Ke Vuthy)

Ke Vuthy, a reporter for TV5, a television station owned by RCAF, said the group of reporters had gone to the border crossing—used by migrant workers and cross-border traders—in Tuol Pongro commune after they heard that a group of migrant workers would be illegally crossing into Thailand.

“When we arrived it was quiet, but when we got back these 10 soldiers blocked us and asked us to delete our videos and photos. If we did not remove them, they would not allow us to leave,” he said.

Mr. Vuthy said that after about an hour he deleted his videos, which only showed locals walking across the border, and was allowed to leave the area at 11 a.m.

He added that he believes he and his colleagues were detained because they had published reports showing soldiers smuggling goods into Cambodia.

“I have broadcast them smuggling goods through the gateway over the last two months, so they took revenge on us,” he said.

Muth Sarun, a reporter for Koh Santepheap newspaper, said the border crossing is frequently used for smuggling food and motorbikes and as a crossing for illegal migrant workers.

He added that he had also reported on the involvement of soldiers in the district with the smuggling.

“Those soldiers’ actions impeded on our freedom of the press,” he said. “It was revenge for our printing of articles about their bad business and allowing illegal migrant workers to cross.”

Ouk Tarann, the RCAF commander in Tuol Pongro commune, denied his soldiers were involved with any smuggling.

“Those reporters’ broadcasting is exaggerated, especially Mr. Vuthy’s,” he said.

According to Mr. Tarann, the border crossing is located on land owned by Sok Pheap, the former Khmer Rouge division commander of Malai, who later defected to the government.

Mr. Tarann said his soldiers detained the reporters because they had tried to cross the border without a permit and were trespassing General Pheap’s private land.

“We stopped them and asked them to remove these pictures because it is General Sok Pheap’s land and it is close to Thai soil,” he said. “If they enter Thai soil and Thai soldiers shoot them, what can we do for them?”

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