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Journalists arrested in alleged extortion scam

Journalists arrested in alleged extortion scam

FOUR Cambodian journalists have been arrested after one allegedly tried to impersonate one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguards in an attempt to extort money in Oddar Meanchey province, a police official confirmed.

Heang Lyhak, a journalist with the Roum Kamlang newspaper, was arrested last week after allegedly trying to extort money from a local business, said Soeun Att, a military police official in Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasath district.

The journalist, Soeun Att said, carried an identity card identifying himself as one of Hun Sen’s bodyguards, and allegedly attempted to use it to extort between US$100 and $200 from a storeowner.

“When the owners of the store could not afford the demand, they complained to local authorities,” Soeun Att said.

Heang Lyhak was charged with possessing a fraudulent document and extortion, and three other journalists and a taxi driver were arrested and charged with conspiracy, Soeun Att said. The group has been sent to Siem Reap provincial court while an investigation continues.

However, Heang Lyhak’s employer said the journalists were innocent and asked that the group be released.

“I have asked the court to consider the issue of freedom of the press,” said Kuch Kuntha, publisher of the Roum Kamlang and Sangkum Cheat newspapers. The journalists, Kuch Kuntha said, had been assigned to cover a story about illegal logging.

In addition to Heang Lyhak, the others arrested include Chhith Sambo from Cheat Yeoung newspaper, Touch Sokly from Sangkum Cheat, Thorn Seng from the Pi Thnuo newspaper and Koy Vath, the taxi driver.

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