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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Publisher cries foul over extortion charge

Publisher cries foul over extortion charge

MALAYSIAN newspaper publisher T Mohan has denied any connection to an alleged attempt

to extort $5000 from Phnom Penh's Naga Casino, which culminated in a threatened grenade

attack against the facility, calling his arrest on September 7 and three-day detention

at Phnom Penh's PJ prison "a mistake".

Mohan, the publisher of the sporadic English-language newsletter The Vision and personal

assistant to Funcinpec Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State Kong Vibol,

told the Post that his arrest was linked to his alleged contact over the past year

with representatives of a shadowy anti-government organization called the Khmer Serei

(Free Khmer).

Those contacts have resulted in a series of Vision articles - widely dismissed by

Western diplomatic sources - documenting a Khmer Serei insurgency movement in the

provinces of Kratie and Strung Treng.

Some observers suggested the Khmer Serei was a government ruse to flush out opposition.

"The police accused me repeatedly of three things - that I was the president

of the Khmer Serei, that I was a member of the Khmer Serei, and [that] I sent the

[threatening] email to the Naga [Casino]," he said.

In an interview on September 11 with the Post, Mohan claimed that a pair of cryptic

phone and email messages he received from an alleged Khmer Serei source identified

only as "Huot" led him to meet with Naga Casino employee Song Meng Kong

on the evening of September 6.

"Never did I ask for money or ask to be an intermediary [in an extortion attempt],"

Mohan said. " Contrary to blackmail, I tried to assist them with regard to threats

against them."

Mohan dismissed suggestions that he would attempt to extort money from Ariston Corporation,

which owns the Naga Casino.

"I've been with Naga since 1993," he said in reference to his management

of the ill-fated Ariston-funded English language newspaper Cambodia Times between

1993-1995. "I know how wide [Ariston's] web is - why should I mess with them?"

Instead, Mohan says he has been victimized by both his arrest and alleged death threats

against himself and his family.

"In this case I'm also a victim because I have received two bullets and an email

in which my kids were threatened," he said.

Mohan refused to provide substantive comment on who he believed was behind the extortion

attempt and the threats against him, preferring instead to voice his "disappointment"

about the conduct of Phnom Penh police in his case.

"My only wish is that the police would [have been] more professional and more

discreet," he said of his arrest on September 7. "We could have met in

a coffee shop ... [Instead] the whole block knew I was arrested."



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