A Cambodian court on Wednesday formally charged two policemen and a former soldier with the weekend murder of a journalist investigating the illegal timber trade, as authorities arrested a suspect in the killing of another investigative reporter earlier this year.
A judge in a court in Kratie province in the northeast of the country filed charges against the three men in the killing of journalist Taing Try, who was shot dead after his car became stuck on a road while he and other journalists investigated the smuggling of luxury wood in the province.
All three of Taing Try’s alleged attackers—Ben Hieng, 31, chief of Sre Chhouk commune police in Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district; Khim Pheakdey, 27, a military police officer in the capital Phnom Penh; and La Narong, 32, a former soldier in Mondulkiri—confessed to the crime a day after Sunday’s murder.
They face between 10 to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Sav Peseith, a reporter who shared the car, said that he had left the vehicle to find help, and that when he returned he found Taing Try already dead.
“Many smugglers wanted to harm him,” Sav Peseith told RFA’s Khmer Service. “This was revenge in connection [with his work investigating] illegal timber smuggling.”
“Our investigation has revealed that the victim was monitoring the illegal smuggling of timber,” Hong Cheavkong, provincial investigator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said in the widely publicized murder case.
“La Narong is the killer,” she added.
“We charged them all with murder,” Kratie provincial prosecutor Ty Sovinthal was quoted saying on Wednesday.
“Throughout the country people have heard about their actions and all of them face at least 10 years in prison,” he said, according to The Cambodia Daily.
Illegal logging is rampant in Cambodia, and often occurs under the protection of government agencies or influential people, rights groups have charged.
One suspect charged
Meanwhile, police in Cambodia’s central Kampong Chhnang province have arrested one suspect among a group of six believed to have been involved in the beating death earlier this year of a journalist who had written a series of articles exposing illegal fishing, according to sources.
Suon Chan, a 44-year-old reporter for the Meakea Kampuchea newspaper, died after being attacked by a group of about 10 local fishermen on Jan. 31 in Kampong Chhnang’s Cholkiri district when he left his house to buy cigarettes, sources said in reports at the time.
After an almost nine-month delay, a suspect named Yorg Pealeng has now been arrested and sent to the provincial prison to await trial, provincial police chief Duch Chamroeun told RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday.
“We arrested him according to a warrant issued by the court,” he said, adding, “We are looking to arrest more suspects.”
Others left free
However, others suspected of involvement in the killing have now lived undisturbed in the same village for months, Adhoc provincial coordinator Sum Chan Kea said, speaking to RFA.
“Even though the victim’s family pointed out the suspects, the authorities failed to arrest them,” he said.
“We would like inspectors to examine this case. We want to know what is going on behind the scenes and why the police haven’t arrested these men.”
The reporter’s widow, Teang Theav, told RFA that the remaining suspects’ continued freedom of movement has caused her to fear for her family’s safety.
“I have no hope that the court can give us justice, or that the police will arrest anyone else,” she said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.