Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that radio journalist Lay Samean, who was badly beaten by district security guards on May 2 while covering a planned opposition rally, may have provoked the violence by calling the guards “yuon’s dogs”, among other insults.
The minister added, however, that he wanted to make it clear that he was “not condoning any form of violence against journalists”.
Kanharith made the comments when reached yesterday to confirm whether or not he had contacted Daun Penh District Governor Sok Sambath to talk about journalists being targeted.
The minister said he had spoken with Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong about the issue instead, but did not elaborate.
He added that he had “investigated the cause of the clash” involving Samean, a Voice of Democracy radio reporter who was taking photos near Freedom Park when the incident occurred, and was told by witnesses and unidentified journalists at the scene that the reporter had insulted district security guards.
“The photographer said: ‘Why don’t you allow the people to enter this area? This is Khmer soil, not yuon’s. You’re just yuon’s dog.’”
But Samean, who was hospitalised after the incident, insisted yesterday that he had said no such thing.
“I tried to take photos of the security guards who were chasing monk Luon Savath to attack him. I tripped and fell over and was beaten up by the security guards. They ran to hit me,” he said.
“I never said or used any such kinds of words with the security guards [then] or at any other time.… [I] am a journalist. We know our role and profession. We just go out to cover events and observe events and make a report about what happened.”
A Post journalist who was at the scene saw Savath, not Samean, asking the guards why they were serving the yuon – a term for Vietnamese – and not Cambodians, before he was chased.
Savath said yesterday that he had “never cursed anyone since entering the monkhood” and that instead, the guards had started insulting him before receiving an order to seize his camera.