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‘Reporters’ accused of extorting timber driver

‘Reporters’ accused of extorting timber driver

A "reporter" was arrested by police in Kratie province’s Snuol district for allegedly assaulting and attempting to extort a driver transporting luxury wood furniture on Wednesday morning.

According to district police chief Chan Sokim, suspect Koam Phearoath, 38, worked for the little-known Voice of Equality News based in Phnom Penh.

Sokim reported that 25-year-old victim Phal Samnang was en route to the capital when stopped by five or six men who identified themselves as journalists and demanded about $2.50 each to not report to authorities that the furniture was made of illegal timber.

Samnang told police he had encountered the men on previous trips, and each time they extorted similar amounts.

“I asked [to pay] next time, but they . . . accused me of lying” Samnang said.

Confronting them, he exclaimed: “You are all at this age and don’t you know how to earn money besides [extortion]?”

Subsequently, Samnang was beaten unconscious.

After interrogation, Phearoath reportedly confirmed being present but denied partaking in the crime. Instead, he accused two “reporters” – of different outlets – who fled.

The suspect also claimed the lug wrench he carried was only a precautionary measure.

Huon Mara, the director of the newspaper in question, said Phearoath will be fired.

Sokim confirmed that the suspect had been charged on counts of assault and extortion while two other suspects are being tracked down.

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