Verdict Due in Case of Brutally Slayed Reporter

A verdict in the brutal slaying last year of an investigative journalist in Ratanakkiri province is due to be handed down by the provincial court today following a reinvestigation into the case.

Hang Serei Odom, 42, a reporter for the Virakchun Khmer Daily, was found hacked to death, his body stuffed in the trunk of his Toyota Camry, in O’Chum district on September 11. In the months prior to his murder he had written about officials in­volved in the illegal timber trade.

After initial court hearings in April and May this year, a panel of three judges decided that there was a lack of evidence and ordered court President Suos La to conduct a reinvestigation—which has now concluded.

“I was appointed…to reinvestigate a number of loopholes, to question more witnesses and to check recordings of phone conversations,” Judge La said Tuesday, declining to elaborate further on any new findings.

Provincial deputy prosecutor Ros Saram confirmed a verdict is due today.

Two days after the murder last year, military police Captain An Bunheng and his wife, Sim Vy, were arrested after police discovered a pair of Hang Serei Odom’s shoes in the couple’s restaurant—where the reporter had been drinking the night before his disappearance.

Although the initial investigation concluded that the two were the only suspects, human rights groups and the victim’s family said they believed that others must have at least known about the killing.

The murder was condemned by rights groups and the U.N.

Im Chanthy, the slain journalist’s wife, said she hoped the verdict would be satisfactory.

“I’ve been waiting for this day to come because I want to see justice,” she said.

Local journalists who report on the lucrative illegal timber trade in luxury wood—often linked to powerful or well-connected people—regularly face threats and pressure because of the nature of their work.

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