MALAYSIAN newspaper publisher T Mohan has denied any connection to an alleged attempt
to extort $5000 from Phnom Penh's Naga Casino, which culminated in a threatened grenade
attack against the facility, calling his arrest on September 7 and three-day detention
at Phnom Penh's PJ prison "a mistake".
Mohan, the publisher of the sporadic English-language newsletter The Vision and personal
assistant to Funcinpec Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State Kong Vibol,
told the Post that his arrest was linked to his alleged contact over the past year
with representatives of a shadowy anti-government organization called the Khmer Serei
Those contacts have resulted in a series of Vision articles - widely dismissed by
Western diplomatic sources - documenting a Khmer Serei insurgency movement in the
provinces of Kratie and Strung Treng.
Some observers suggested the Khmer Serei was a government ruse to flush out opposition.
"The police accused me repeatedly of three things - that I was the president
of the Khmer Serei, that I was a member of the Khmer Serei, and [that] I sent the
[threatening] email to the Naga [Casino]," he said.
In an interview on September 11 with the Post, Mohan claimed that a pair of cryptic
phone and email messages he received from an alleged Khmer Serei source identified
only as "Huot" led him to meet with Naga Casino employee Song Meng Kong
on the evening of September 6.
"Never did I ask for money or ask to be an intermediary [in an extortion attempt],"
Mohan said. " Contrary to blackmail, I tried to assist them with regard to threats
Mohan dismissed suggestions that he would attempt to extort money from Ariston Corporation,
which owns the Naga Casino.
"I've been with Naga since 1993," he said in reference to his management
of the ill-fated Ariston-funded English language newspaper Cambodia Times between
1993-1995. "I know how wide [Ariston's] web is - why should I mess with them?"
Instead, Mohan says he has been victimized by both his arrest and alleged death threats
against himself and his family.
"In this case I'm also a victim because I have received two bullets and an email
in which my kids were threatened," he said.
Mohan refused to provide substantive comment on who he believed was behind the extortion
attempt and the threats against him, preferring instead to voice his "disappointment"
about the conduct of Phnom Penh police in his case.
"My only wish is that the police would [have been] more professional and more
discreet," he said of his arrest on September 7. "We could have met in
a coffee shop ... [Instead] the whole block knew I was arrested."