Trio Charged With Journalist’s Murder in Kratie

The Kratie Provincial Court on Tuesday brought murder charges against three men arrested for the killing on Sunday morning of 49-year-old journalist Taing Try in Snuol district and sent them to the provincial prison to await trial, a court official said.

The journalist’s murder has sparked widespread condemnation, as the suspects all come from Cambodia’s security forces. Rights groups have called for a thorough inquiry and an impartial trial to reverse the trend of impunity for violent crimes against those who investigate illegal logging.

“We charged them all with murder,” said provincial prosecutor Ty Sovinthal. “Throughout the country people have heard about their actions and all of them face at least 10 years in prison.”

The defendants are Ben Hieng, 31, chief of Sre Chhouk commune police in Mondolkiri province’s Keo Seima district; Khim Pheakdey, 27, a Phnom Penh military police officer and former forest ranger in Keo Seima district; and the alleged gunman, La Narong, 32, a former Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier in Mondolkiri.

The trio confessed to the crime at a press conference on Monday, claiming they carried out the attack after a night of drinking. They said the reporter had threatened to expose their illegal logging activities earlier in the day when they refused to let him borrow a boat.

“If they were angry with the reporter for trying to extort money or something else from them they should have complained to the court, but instead they cruelly shot and killed him,” said Mr. Sovinthal.

But there are concerns that the quick arrests and charges mean that authorities are protecting a senior military police official in Snuol district rumored to be behind the illegal logging trade in the area.

Amanda King, communications manager for the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said a more thorough investigation was required to ensure that everyone involved was brought to justice.

“If we have a truly independent judiciary, we can receive real justice for the murder and intimidation of independent journalists for the first time since democratic elections in 1993,” she said.

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