Pursat Provincial Court charged three men with attempted extortion yesterday for allegedly demanding money from Phnom Kravanh district villagers while impersonating military police.
“After they were charged, the suspects were placed in pretrial detention at the provincial prison,” said deputy prosecutor You Yeunny.
Deputy district military police chief Chheang Bunna identified the suspects as Neth Bunna, 40, Ven Daly, 26, and Sea Sna, 48, a reporter for the little-known newspaper Smarakdey Cheat.
He said the three were posing as military police when they stopped Bak Chinhchien commune villager Sorn Touch’s son at approximately 1:30 on Sunday morning while transporting timber collected at their Samraong commune farm. He said the men threatened to confiscate the cart and timber unless Mr Touch paid them $1,000.
“After we received the report, we went there immediately and arrested them at around 2 am,” Mr Bunna said. “We confiscated one motorbike and three media passes” from Mr Sna.
Mr Touch said he and his son had gone to tend farmland ahead of the rainy season and planned to use the timber from the trees they cleared to build furniture for their home. Mr Touch left early, but his son rented a neighbor’s buffalo cart on Saturday to haul the lumber home and was stopped by the three men that night. Mr Touch’s son called him with their demand.
“They warned that if I don’t pay them $1,000…they’ll confiscate my wood and buffalo cart,” he said.
After bargaining the men down to $500, Mr Touch said he called the military police.
“I called to the military police to ask them who these men are. Are they district military police or not?” he said.
Contact information for the Smarakdey Cheat newspaper could not be obtained. Club of Cambodian Journalists chief administrator Chet Sorn said he did not know of the paper.
“I never heard of them, and they have not joined our club,” he said.