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Seventeen NGO staffers arrested for alleged extortion

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Fourteen of the 17 suspects arrested in Pursat province for allegedly setting up unauthorised checkpoints and extorting money from locals. Fresh News

Seventeen NGO staffers arrested for alleged extortion

Seventeen members of a purportedly fraudulent NGO were arrested on Tuesday night for allegedly setting up unauthorised checkpoints across Pursat province, according to police.

Fourteen arrests were carried out around 10pm in Veal Veng district’s Pramuoy commune, District Police Chief Theang Leng said. The individuals were affiliated with a group called “Cambodia Protects of Environment and Human Rights Organisation”, Leng said.

“They put up this anarchic checkpoint and extorted money from people who transported timber for building their houses. They stopped motorbikes and trucks that transported such timer and asked for money,” he said. “Some of their members [also] chased the trucks or motorbikes.

“They had their uniforms, and this made people believe” they were legitimate, he said, noting they demanded 100,000 to 200,000 riel (about $25 to $50) at a time.

Three other individuals were arrested in neighbouring Phnom Kravanh district, in Pursat, he said, adding that the group had been warned prior to Khmer New Year to cease their activities and had signed a pledge to do so. While the group was legally registered as an NGO, Leng said, police intervened after complaints from villagers about their alleged improper conduct.

“They stand there day and night,” he said, adding that one suspect, Nhem Phai Mony, identified himself as the “regional chief” of the NGO.

As of Thursday afternoon, 14 of the suspects were being questioned at the district police office before being sent to the provincial office, where the three others arrested in Phnom Kravanh are being held.

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