TV9 Reporter Sues Military Police Commander Over Arrest

A television journalist who was briefly detained by military police in Mondulkiri province last week said on Tuesday that he had filed a court complaint against the commander who ordered his arrest.

The incident was sparked by a segment aired by national broadcaster TV9 on Wednesday last week, which alleged that provincial military police commander Sak Sarang was taking bribes from illegal loggers inside the Seima Bio­diversity Conservation Area. The segment was based on a report by TV9’s correspondent in the eastern province, Vann Tith.

The morning after it aired, Mr. Tith said, he was escorted from his home by four military police officials and taken to a district station, where his mobile phone was confiscated after he contacted his editor.

He said he was then transferred to the provincial military police head­quarters, where Brigadier Gen­­eral Sarang ordered him to “stop linking his name to the timber in­dustry” and released him about two hours later.

On Tuesday, Mr. Tith said he filed two complaints on Monday with the encouragement of his editor: one with the Mondolkiri Provin­cial Court accusing the general of illegal detention, the other with the National Military Police, requesting the intervention of the force’s commander, Sao Sokha.

“I filed the complaints against him because he violated my individual rights and violated my rights as a journalist when he illegally detained me and threatened me,” Mr. Tith said. “I do not want any compensation. I just want justice.”

National Military Police spokes­man Eng Hy said his officials would conduct an internal investigation into the incident but declined to comment further.

So Sovithya, a deputy prosecutor at the Mondolkiri court, said he had not seen the complaint. “It may be that the complaint is still at the court’s administration office. If it arrives in our hands, we will investigate it,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Sarang could not be reached for comment.

His deputy, Phuok Chanthy, re­jected the characterization of his boss’s actions as “illegal,” but admitted that the general had employed “incorrect procedure.”

“He should have called him by telephone or invited him to come of his own volition,” Mr. Chanthy said, adding that Mr. Tith was also at fault, having written up a report that was factually inaccurate.

“I think we should try and un­derstand this together, apologize or confirm the mistake together,” he said. “We are both from state institutions.”

While TV9 is not operated by the government, the chan­nel and its af­filiated radio station are owned by the family of CPP Senior Minister Khun Haing, ac­cording to Infor­mation Minister Khieu Kanharith.

Pen Bonnar, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said on Tuesday that his organization had intervened to secure the speedy release of Mr. Tith last week.

“We protested his illegal de­tention, and he was released im­mediately,” he said.

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