Kratie provincial police on Tuesday said they have some clues about the murder of a journalist in Snuol district’s Pi Thnou commune and are working to identify the suspects.
Deputy provincial police chief Suos Chamroeun said 18-year-old Sorn Sithy, a reporter at the Battambang Post, was killed in the early hours of February 4 while on his way from a dance party with two other friends.
“We’re probing his death. We’ve been questioning people who may have been involved and have found some clues. We have yet to determine what exactly led to his death,” he said.
Chamroeun said police went to inspect the scene after villagers reported they found a body in the commune’s Cheung Kle village.
District police chief Chan Sokim said police are struggling to determine the identity of the suspects because the victim’s friends – and the only witnesses – claimed they did not know what led to the attack.
“We’re launching a thorough investigation into the murder, which happened past midnight after the victim and his friends joined a dance party. The two friends who were returning home with the victim said they were unaware about any motive behind the murder,” he said.
Sokim said before the incident the victim was travelling with two friends on a motorbike to the dance party near KM90 close to the village.
While returning home, they encountered a group of around 20 people who threw rocks at them. Sithy, who was sitting behind the two friends, fell off the motorbike and was beaten to death at the scene.
‘Hardly covered forest crimes’
Sem Diya, the editor-in-chief of the Battambang Post, said Sithy had worked at his agency for nearly a year. He said Sithy mostly reported news on social issues and hardly ever covered forest crimes.
“We’re sad about his death. Police have told us [journalists] to stay calm and let them investigate. They said if we continue to report about the death, we would cause difficulty in their investigation as the perpetrators might escape after hearing news about police progress. Some 20 people could have been involved,” he said.
In a separate case, a reporter at the Cambodian Journalists Association for Freedom was beaten unconscious in a mob attack while he was on a field visit to report on the illegal clearance of rainforest around the Pea Raign Lake in Siem Reap province on January 26.
The reporter, Sim Chhiv Chhean Pisith, said on Tuesday he filed a complaint to the provincial court four days after the attack, but the court has yet to hear the case.
And in another incident, a Ratanakkiri province-based reporter for the KH TV online news agency was seriously injured in a hit-and-run in Banlung town’s Kachanh commune on January 16. The reporter was identified as Ouch Savorn.
Pen Bona, the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, told The Post on Tuesday that the recent tragic mob attack on the journalist in Kratie province may have been caused by a personal issue as the victim reportedly had a heated argument with another group at the dance party before the murder.
“It involved a personal dispute and has nothing to do with his profession,” he said.
Bona said there were no cases of journalist-related violence last year. He said there were only complaints related to personal issues.
“As far as I know, there were three complaints involving journalists: one was lodged against a reporter and the other two were filed by reporters,” he said.