A fisherman was charged with murder by Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court for his alleged involvement in the deadly January beating of a local reporter who covered illegal fishing in the area, the second such charge to be laid in as many days in the slayings of Cambodian journalists.
Colonel Prak Vuthy, deputy chief of Kampong Chhnang provincial police, said suspect, Yorhor Phealeng, 36 – a farmer and fisherman thought to have been one of five men who beat journalist Suon Chan, 44, to death on January 31 – had been arrested on Tuesday morning.
“He was arrested by our provincial penal police based on a warrant for his arrest from the provincial court’s investigating judge, Mr Suth Sam Ork,” Vuthy said yesterday.
“According to the court’s documents, he was officially charged by the provincial court’s prosecutor with intentional murder under Article 199 of the penal code, and he now has been sent to provincial prison,” he added.
Police are still seeking the arrest of Phealeng’s four suspected accomplices who have also been named in court warrants, Vuthy said.
Investigating judge Sam Ork could not be reached for comment.
Phealeng’s arrest comes hot on the heels of the arrest of three members of state security forces who were charged on Tuesday with intentional murder for allegedly shooting local journalist Taing Try in the head over a dispute relating to their suspected involvement in illegal logging.
Captain Tith Reth, a Cholkiri district police officer, said at the time that Chan had been a reporter for the Meakea Kampuchea – or Cambodia’s Way – newspaper, and was ambushed by assailants in Cholkiri’s Peam Chhkork commune on the night of January 31.
“He had stones thrown at him, and was beaten with … bamboo by a group of five people while he was walking out of his house alone in order to buy cigarettes from a shop in the village. He was beaten and was seriously injured on his head and neck, and lost consciousness at the scene,” he said.
After the beating, Reth added, the suspects fled.
“Suon Chan died because of his serious injuries after he was sent for immediate rescue at Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh on the 1st of February, 2014,” he said.
Two relatives of Chan – Suon Chim, 22, and Kou En, 27 – were also beaten that night after they responded to Chan’s cries for help, Reth said.
Peam Chhkork commune police chief Duong Vuthy told the Post in February that Chan’s slaying was a revenge attack for his past reporting on illegal fishing in the commune.
“According to the police report, this case was related to rancour between the victim and the group of suspects, because the victim had used his influence as a journalist to report and write about the suspects’ illegal fishing activities,” he said. “Based on his reports, our police had also gone and cracked down and confiscated illegal fishing materials that were used in catching fish in rivers in the district.”
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator with the rights group Adhoc, said that he was unsurprised by the arrest due to the fact that, despite police’s claims the suspects had fled, all five had been openly living in the village since Chan’s death.
“I was not surprised by this suspect’s arrest because this case happened over nine months ago, but police did not take any action,” he said. “All the suspects are now living freely in their homes in the village, but police did not arrest them.”
“I think that police seemed to have no real will to arrest the suspects and send them to the court,” he added, saying that Adhoc would continue investigating the case.