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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Journalists set to face Battambang court on forestry charges

Journalists set to face Battambang court on forestry charges

Four journalists detained by military police for stealing a chainsaw will face trial pending an investigation by the Forestry Administration.

FOUR journalists arrested in Battambang's Rukakiri district Sunday after being accused of stealing a chainsaw will be investigated by the Forestry Administration after a provincial court transferred their case, claiming it was outside their jurisdiction.

"To follow the court's procedures, I have transferred the case to Forestry Administration officials to investigate because it involves a forestry crime, not a robbery like military police originally charged," said Yos Chanthavirak, Battambang court chief prosecutor.

Military police officers detained the four men - all of whom held press credentials issued by the Ministry of Information - after they received a complaint from a local resident Sunday that the men drove to his house and stole a chainsaw from his property.  

"After asking the four suspects, they admitted that they had stolen the chainsaw, so we charged them with robbery," said So Dy, chief of the provincial Bureau of Military Security.

According to their press cards, three of the men work for Koh Santepheap Men, a local newspaper, while the fourth is employed by another publication, Koh Ekreach.

Two suspects on the run

Yin Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said two of the four men escaped detention during their transfer to pretrial detention at the provincial court.

He told the Post that the Forestry Administration would investigate the case and file any complaints back to the provincial court for prosecution, but said he disagreed with the decision to reassign the case.

"This is a robbery crime, not a forestry crime," he said. "I'm disappointed."

Victim Vorn Yoeun, 25, said Wednesday that the four men drove up to his house in a white Camry and took his chainsaw without any explanation.

"I chased the men's car on my motorbike for about 3 kilometres but they didn't stop, [so] I stopped by the military police office to make a complaint."

Investigating judge Keo Chheng could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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