Reporters: Court Official’s Bodyguards Beat Us

Three newspaper reporters in Pursat province alleged June 8 that they were held at gunpoint while bodyguards of a provincial court official beat them for trying to take photographs of a truck carrying illegal timber.

Phorn Veasna, 28, and his brother Phorn Dara, 29, reporters for the little-know Kampuchea Indepen­dence newspaper, and Heng Veas­na, 34, a reporter with Khmer Vision newspaper claimed the attack oc­curred on the evening of June 7 as they photographed police chasing several trucks suspected to be carrying illegal timber.

Phorn Veasna said by telephone that when he identified himself as a reporter at the scene of the police op­eration Chief Prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth ordered his two bodyguards to aim their guns at him and remove the film from his camera.

“[The bodyguards] took out the film and threw the camera away,” he said.

After recovering his camera, the reporters followed the police caravan back into Pursat provincial town to take more pictures, Phorn Veas­na said. But when they attempted to do so, Tob Chan Sereivuth pointed his own gun at them and ordered his bodyguards to confiscate their camera and a camera-equipped mobile phone, the reporter claimed.

“[Tob Chan Sereivuth] is a person of the law, but he treated me like a robber by pointing his gun at me and confiscating my camera,” Phorn Veasna said.

“[The bodyguards] kneed me and hit me two times with their el­bows,” he added.

Contacted by telephone, Tob Chan Sereivuth confirmed that he ordered his bodyguards to confiscate the reporter’s camera and mobile phone, but denied that they were beaten.

Tob Chan Sereivuth said the re­porters had taken pictures without his permission; so he ordered his bodyguards to restrain the three men, confiscate their film and re­lease them.

The reporters, however, followed the police convoy back into town and began taking photographs again, Tob Chan Sereivuth said, add­ing that he then ordered his bodyguard to confiscate their cameras and a telephone.

“There was no beating,” he said, adding that the cameras and phones are now at the provincial court.

Tob Chan Sereivuth said that he does carry a gun for protection, but denied pointing it at the reporters.

Khieu Kola, an independent journalist, said that there is no law against taking pictures in public spaces.

“In a public place you have no right to prohibit journalists,” he said, adding that the matter should be investigated.

Information Minister Khieu Kanh­arith could not be reached for comment June 8.

(Additional reporting by James Welsh)

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