A border official and a reporter gave drastically different accounts Sunday of events that transpired after a group of journalists was blocked as they attempted to visit the Chambok border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province on Friday.
Pho Bunthorn, a reporter from Hang Meas television, said he and three other reporters from TV5, CTN and SEA TV were blocked in their attempt to inspect the checkpoint in Malai district after they received a tip that motorbikes were being illegally smuggled across the border.
“We arrived at the area at about 5:30 p.m.,” he said. “But a police officer named Pros blocked our path for walking to see the smuggled goods and then the police officer threatened to chop us with a machete and then he took a camera from my hand and smashed it on the ground.”
Mr. Bunthorn said he then tried to borrow a camera from one of his colleagues to capture what had happened, but that the other reporters had already started running away from the machete-wielding officer.
“We ran away through a cassava field to escape from an attack by the police officer because he chased us from behind in an attempt to chop all of us with a machete,” Mr. Bunthorn said.
“The police officer attempted to kill all of us to keep secret information as they are committing economic crimes,” he said, adding that he would file a complaint against the officer with the provincial court today.
Sarm Sey, chief of the Chambok checkpoint, confirmed that his officers had stopped the journalists to ask what they were doing there, but said they let them go on their way after the group declined a police officials’ offer to accompany them.
According to Mr. Sey, who said he was busy playing volleyball when the dispute arose, the journalists angered a cassava plantation owner when they tried to cross his field during their investigation.
“My police did not break the camera of those reporters, but the cassava plantation owner did because he was angry that they entered his field without letting him know,” he said.
Mr. Sey identified the plantation owner as Thin Manin, 38, and said he was receiving treatment at the district referral hospital Sunday after the reporters attacked him.
“The cassava plantation owner told me that one of the four reporters attempted to chop his head with a knife, but he used his right arm to protect his head and his arm was severely injured,” he said.
“The cassava plantation owner plans to file a complaint against the four reporters because they injured him with a knife.”