A district military police commander in Banteay Meanchey province detained two reporters and ordered the destruction of footage they had taken of his men trading timber and motorbikes across the border, it was alleged this week.
In a complaint to the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Wednesday, Cambodia TV5 reporter Keo Vuthy accused Ouk Daran, the Malai district military police commander, of illegal imprisonment and destroying private property over the incident in Tuol Pongro commune.
According to a report on the National Police website, Vuthy and a reporter from the Koh Santepheap daily were detained in their car as they attempted to leave a military barracks zone on Monday at 10am.
Speaking yesterday, Vuthy said the pair were in the area to report on cases of Thai soldiers shooting at Cambodians.
However, while en route, he said they came across Cambodian soldiers trading at the border, which they photographed and captured on video.
“I saw the Thai thieves sell the bike to the military officers and I saw our officers transport timber to sell to the Thais,” he said.
According to the National Police report, on their return, the pair were blocked at the barracks’ entryway and approached by soldiers, led by the barrack’s chief Vi Vannak, who called Daran.
Daran then ordered his men to confiscate their phones and cameras and delete the evidence, Vuthy alleged.
“When Daran arrived he shouted at me and said, ‘You were the one from TV5 who reported that I was the head of selling timber, right? What kinds of evidence do you have? How could you report like that!’”
Vuthy said the men deleted the photos in retaliation for his recent stories on the local military’s involvement in illegal logging.
Daran yesterday refused to respond to the allegations of illegal cross-border trading by men under his command.
In a statement on the National Police website he denied allegations of detaining the men and deleting their photos and videos.
“I just stopped them and asked where they went and came back from. I was afraid that they would get caught by those Thai soldiers. I was just a coordinator at that time,” Daran said.
Human rights group Adhoc on Thursday released a statement urging authorities to take legal action to protect journalists.
According to a report by the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, released yesterday, reporters in the Kingdom “routinely” face threats and violence while carrying out their work.