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Eight K Thom men charged with extortion, impersonating police

Eight K Thom men charged with extortion, impersonating police

A group of men, including six with press passes, have been arrested after they allegedly dressed up as military police and robbed local residents.

EIGHT men from Stong district, Kampong Thom province, have been charged with extortion and forgery after they posed as police officers and extorted money out of people, officials told the Post Tuesday.

The eight accused, six of whom police claim were carrying press cards, were arrested Sunday following a complaint filed by fishermen last Thursday.

The fishermen said the group procured 1,610,000 riels (US$400) from them by threatening to fine them for illegal fishing.

 "After receiving a complaint on March 12, I alerted the court prosecutor who gave arrest warrants to eight people. On Sunday, we seized military police uniforms and press cards," Stong district police Chief Huot Sarin said Tuesday.

"We have sent the accused to court for further investigation, but we don't know the exact amount of money they earned from extortion," he added.

Court prosecutor Pen Sarat said Tuesday they face a lengthy jail term if convicted.

"I charged the men with extortion and impersonating police officers, and they are now serving time in pretrial detention," he said. "If they are found guilty, they will face five- to 10-year jail sentences."

According to Pen Sarat, the investigating judge was still searching for an AK-47 assault rifle and a pair of handcuffs police claimed the accused used.

Ek Sophea, a monitor for the rights group Licadho who met with the suspects in prison, said they claimed not to have taken as much money as the fishermen alleged.

He confirmed that six of the men had press passes but was not sure whether these were real or fake.

"We will keep investigating to find out the truth because we didn't find a gun as the police alleged," said Ek Sophea.

Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said Tuesday that he didn't believe six of the men were really journalists.

"Not all people who have press cards are journalists." 

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