Newsman’s Murder Probe Disputed

The family of a murdered Cambodian journalist says additional suspects are involved in his death.
2012-11-21
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oudom-evidence-305.jpg
Police search for evidence in the murder of Hang Serei Oudom in Ratanakiri province, Sept. 13, 2012.
RFA

A provincial court in northeastern Cambodia on Wednesday concluded its investigation into the murder of an investigative journalist who had exposed corruption involving local elites, according to the man’s lawyer, but a local rights group said the probe was not far reaching enough.

Ratanakiri provincial court investigating Judge Luch Lao confirmed that military officer An Bunheng and his wife, known by her nickname “Vy,” were linked to the September murder of 42-year-old local reporter Hang Serei Oudom.

The suspects had been taken into custody a day after the reporter’s battered body was found in the trunk of his car. Police and a court prosecutor said they had found evidence linking them to the crime at the couple’s restaurant in Ratanakiri province.

Hok Phalla, the attorney representing Hang Serei Oudom’s family, said relatives expected the court to arrest additional suspects in the killing.

He said that according to other witnesses, there are “more suspects involved with the killing,” and called on the court to conduct a “proper investigation” before reaching a conclusion.

“The investigation seems to have concluded faster than usual," he told RFA’s Khmer service.

The provincial court had summoned 12 witnesses during the investigation, Hok Phalla said, and would next hold a hearing with the suspects before making a final decision in the case. A date has not yet been scheduled for the hearing.

Judge Luch Lao could not be reached for comment.

Pen Bonna, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), echoed the concerns of Hang Serei Oudom’s family about the scope of the investigation.

“According to evidence and witnesses, the murder must involve senior military police officers in the province,” he said, adding that the court should also look into the role of the son of the Voen Sai district military police chief in the reporter’s death.

Hang Serei Oudom, a reporter for the local Virakchum Khmer Daily newspaper, had worked to expose illegal logging and forest crimes involving local elites in Ratanakiri province before he was found beaten to death in his car at a local cashew plantation days after he went missing on Sept. 10.

In his most recent article on Sept. 6, the reporter had accused the son of the Voen Sai district military police chief of smuggling logs in military-plated vehicles and extorting money from people who were legally transporting wood.

Rights groups said Hang Serei Oudom was the first Cambodian journalist killed since 2008, when reporter Khim Sambo and his son were shot dead in Phnom Penh.

Khim Sambo, who wrote for the pro-opposition Moneakseka Khmer newspaper, had published an article on nepotism and corruption within Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.