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Another journalist targeted over illegal logging

120927_03

Ek Sokunthy (C), a 42-year-old journalist for the Ta Prum weekly newspaper in Ratanakkiri province, recovers after being attacked and beaten on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at his home. Photograph supplied

Ek Sokunthy (C), a 42-year-old journalist for the Ta Prum weekly newspaper in Ratanakkiri province, recovers after being attacked and beaten on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at his home. Photograph supplied

Three men, including a disgraced former police officer, have been accused of savagely beating a journalist in what is believed to be the third instance this month of intimidation against reporters exposing illegal logging in Ratanakkiri.

Ek Sokunthy, 42, a journalist for Ta Prum weekly newspaper, told the Post yesterday that he was beaten on the head and body with a pistol and wooden stick in Andong Meas district’s Malik commune. His wife, who had recently given birth to their first child, was pushed to the floor during the attack, which took place Tuesday.

Major Kim Vanna, of Ratanakkiri provincial of military police, said the alleged perpetrators, former Andong Meas police officer Nget Senghorn, and local residents Puth Hoeurn and “Thy”, have fled the area. The search for the suspects continues.

“They are illegal loggers, but I have never written of their case,” said Sokunthy. “I didn’t know the reason why they beat me because I always wrote stories favourable to authorities and am fearful now.”

Talav commune police chief Kim Savong said Senghorn is a former police officer who was expelled due to disciplinary issues.

While Sokunthy denied by phone to the Post yesterday any conflict over his reporting, or coverage beyond “positive provincial developments”, his editor at Ta Prum weekly said he published a story on illegal logging activity last month.

“After the death of the journalist [in Ratanakkiri], he also received a death threat from officials telling him to be careful,” said Phum Chesda. “They said, ‘Did you hear about the death? Do you want to follow? Do you want to continue your career here?’”

Sokunthy had received up to three death threats from Andong Meas district police and military police regarding his coverage of logging, Chesda said.

According to Chhay Thi of human rights group Adhoc, this is the third instance of intimidation against journalists involved in logging issues in Ratanakkiri province this month.

The first occurred in O’Yadav district when a group of journalists photographing illegal timber storage had their motorcycles damaged.

The second, and most severe, is the gruesome case of Hang Serei Oudom, who was found in the trunk of his car this month bludgeoned to death by an axe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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