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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ailing rogue reporter needs release from jail, wife says

Ailing rogue reporter needs release from jail, wife says

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081127_4.jpg

Rights groups express concern over conditions in Pursat prison, while officials say the reputed journalist is not that ill

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

Seth Borin in Pursat province last month.

SETH Borin, the wife of Him Mao, a purported journalist who was arrested in Pursat two months ago, has appealed for help in order to free her husband, who, she says, has become sick during his incarceration.

Ngoun Lay, the chief of police at Pursat prison, said Him Mao is not seriously ill and is suffering only from a mild cold.

Seth Borin has been harvesting rice to make money to visit her husband, who is being held in Pursat prison, a half-day journey from her home in a remote village.

She says her husband has been requesting her company and cooking, but she does not have the money to visit him regularly.

"I have not got any way to get my husband released from jail. Previously, I depended on his editor-in-chief to help, but he kept telling us to wait and wait, and now I get the news that my husband is not a member of his staff.

"This doesn't make any sense to me," she said, "because the editor-in-chief has come to our house before. He doesn't want to be responsible, and now I don't have anywhere to turn."

Him Mao was arrested on September 27 in Bakan district while attempting  to photograph illegal loggers. He has been accused of fighting with police, a charge he denies.

Human rights organisation Adhoc has said it will not be working for Him Mao's release because he was drunk at the time of his arrest.

The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, however, has said it will continue to look into Him Mao's arrest and that it is trying to find him a lawyer. Ien Kongchit, the case investigator, said there are reports from villagers that Him Mao slapped a police officer, but no further attack was witnessed.

Him Mao told the Post in October that he had been working for the Khmer papers Koh Ke and Bayon for four years and used to take bribes from ministry officials to withhold  discriminating stories.

He said he was forced to act dishonourably because he was a poor man without any other skills.  

"Sometimes I write stories about ministers and ministries and the bad things they do. Then I show them the story before it is printed, and they usually pay me to stop it being published. I never receive  a lot, just 5,000 riels here and there. I know that is not how journalists are supposed to work but what could I do?" he said then.

The Pursat Provincial Court is demanding US$1,000 for his release, a sum his wife called exorbitant.

Lay Pitou, the deputy chief commander of the military police in Bakan district, said that he did not want to arrest Him Mao but was ordered to by his superiors.

"If Him Mao was not drunk we would not have had this problem. We just wanted him to say sorry, but he wouldn't do it," he said.

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