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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Editor calls for justice

Editor calls for justice

C O-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng says the police know the identities of some of

the people who smashed up the New Liberty News office, but will deal with the case

"according to the law."

Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly four days after the attack, Sar Kheng

would not directly say whether the police would or would not prosecute anybody.

Asked if they knew the identify of any of the assailants, he said: "We know

who they are, their names, the number plates [of the trucks], but we handle the case

according to the law."

He blamed the newspaper for causing the attack, saying: "I think it was the

fault of the newspaper, for it printed untrue information."

But he said that if attackers wanted to complain about the newspaper, "they

should have done so through legal means. That would have been more dignified."

On the morning of Oct 23, about 150 villagers piled into three trucks from Kraingyov

commune in Kandal and came to Phnom Penh.

They went to the New Liberty News, which had two days earlier run a story said poor

road and dyke construction in Kraingyov had led to flooding,

Newspaper staffer Doeu Bunna, aged 30, was the only person in the office at the time.

Others, including editor Hen Vipheak had just left.

Bunna said a mob of people broke their way through the office's locked door with

axes.

"Some of them grabbed me by the arms and the throat. Someone put his axe against

my head. I was very scared," said Bunna, who suffered bruises and scratches

to his back.

Other villagers went to the upstairs computer room and threw equipment to the ground

outside. A pile of back issues of the newspapers was hauled to the street and burned.

Hen Vipheak said equipment worth $14,000 was destroyed and $3,250 in cash stolen.

His landlord, meanwhile, wnated full compensation for damage to the premises.

The day after the attack, Vihpeak issued a statement calling on both prime ministers

to unmask the culprits, "otherwise I will sue the Royal Government in the national

and international courts for being an accomplice to the robbery of my property."

Fear of futher violence - along with telephone calls to other anti-government newspapers

warning them they would be attacked - sent some journalists into hiding.

"We kept moving from house to house to produce our newspaper," said Wat

Phnom News editor Meas Dararith, who evacuated his equipment and locked up his office.

Meanwhile, pro-Hun Sen newspaper Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace) devoted half a

front page to splash photos and headlines applauding the attack and praising Kraingyov's

farmers for knowing how to practice "democracy".

"Welcome Kraingyov's farmers who were brave to destroy the enemy," read

a headline of its Oct 26 edition.

Local and international human rights groups strongly condemned the attack on New

Liberty News - which took place on the fourth anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreement

on Cambodia - and called for swift action to ensure the offenders were brought to

justice.

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