Three ‘Journalists’ Arrested for Extortion of Timber Trader

Police in Oddar Meanchey province have arrested four men, three claiming to be journalists, for allegedly trying to extort money from a former timber trader, officials said on Sunday.

Two other men are also wanted in connection with the extortion, demanded in exchange for not publishing the trader’s story, said deputy provincial police chief Lek Sokha.

The four arrested men were stopped by police on a road in the province’s Trapaing Prasat district on Saturday as they escaped in a car after receiving the money, Mr. Sokha said.

Mr. Sokha identified the four arrested men as Sing Samlai, 40, editor-in-chief at Vimean Ek Reach (Independence Monument) newspaper; Sar Thouch, 41, a journalist from Koh Pich (Diamond Island) newspaper; Paotith Narong, 32, a journalist from Khmer Machas Srok newspaper; and Soeun San, 28, a university graduate.

The three claiming to be journalists had press cards, but police could not confirm on Sunday if the publications existed, and a check revealed only a small online presence for them.

Mr. Sokha said he did not know the name of the former timber trader, who had claimed he was no longer in the business.

The trader had been approached by the men, who said they had photographic evidence of illegal trading, Mr. Sokha said.

“The victim said they used old pictures,” Mr. Sokha said.

“First they asked for $3,000 and after the negotiation, they agreed to about $625,” he added.

After paying the money at an agreed location, the victim called the provincial prosecutor who ordered police to arrest the men, Mr. Sokha said.

Police found three press cards and 900,000 riel, or about $225, on the four men, who are due to appear in provincial court today. The victim had written down serial numbers of the banknotes which matched the money found on the suspects, Mr. Sokha said.

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