Two journalists and a Forestry Administration official alleged to have been extorting farmers in Santuk district were yesterday set free by Kampong Thom military police, despite multiple eyewitness statements.
The trio were identified by provincial director of military police investigations Bun Khy as Mey Rotha and Soy Vor of Thebpadey and Domneng Knong Srok newspapers, respectively, two seldom-printed publications, and Hieng Bunthoeun, of the provincial Forestry Administration. They were arrested at 11pm on Wednesday in Kraya commune’s O’Thom village.
“The crackdown was carried out after villagers reported that an illegal roadblock had been set up to demand bribes of 50,000 to 100,000 riel [$12.5 to $25] from vehicles hauling agricultural goods,” Khy said.
Sure enough, at 11pm that evening, the trio were manning an illegal roadblock in O’Thom and were taken in by police. But 10 hours later, they were released without charge as arresting officers had not personally seen them attempting to extort anyone.
“However, before freeing them, our experts educated them and got them to thumbprint a contract to stop setting illegal roadblocks,” Khy said.
Meanwhile in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, five police officers were arrested on Wednesday over allegations they had been demanding bribes. District police chief Mok Hong declined to comment, directing enquiries to municipal police chief Choun Sovann.
“We need to educate the police officers and that’s our obligation, so there’s no need for us to tell journalists about it,” Sovann said.