Police in Kratie province yesterday filed preliminary charges against three members of the security forces implicated in the murder of local journalist Taing Try, who was gunned down in the province’s Snuol district early on Sunday morning.
Om Sophy, Kratie provincial deputy police chief, said the three suspects – a former soldier, a police officer and a military police officer – would be sent to court for questioning today.
“We cannot send them to court and to prison now, because we have to follow long procedures, but they will be sent to court for justice [today],” he said.
Try, 48, was employed by the Khmer Journalists Democracy Association (KJDA), an independent publishing network. He was shot dead after a dispute with Pin Heang, 32, a police officer from Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district. During the dispute, La Narong, 32, a former soldier in Mondulkiri province, shot the reporter in the head at around 1am, according to police. The gun belonged to military police officer Khem Pheakday, 27, who wasn’t present during the incident.
“According to the testimony of La Narong, it was a dispute. [Try] stopped them … and threatened to seize the timber,” he said.
In 2012, Try faced charges for allegedly extorting luxury wood from a man he accused of being involved in the illegal timber trade.
That charge was ultimately dropped, but a police officer told the Post on Sunday that Try had seemingly continued to operate in the same fashion.
Pheakdey, Narong and Heang had been drinking during the day on Saturday in a village close to where the shooting took place, Sophy said, which is in an area known for illegal logging. Try had arrived and threatened to confiscate any timber he found on the men.
Narong and Heang, Sophy said, later went drinking at a karaoke bar in Snuol district. After leaving the bar, they came upon Try’s car, which had broken down on the road, and stopped to help.
An argument broke out and Try – who had been travelling with a group of eight other journalists – punched Narong, according to Sophy, after which Narong pulled out a gun and shot Try, killing him on the spot.
“As far as I know, the victim was always asking for money from the timber business people, and he was imprisoned once for seven to 10 days to shape up and improve himself,” Sophy said.
Kratie’s deputy prosecutor, Thuch Panchak Santepheap, said there were no other suspects in the case.
“We already know the suspects. There are no other targets. We are just waiting to see, after questioning, who was involved and who was not, because the group drank together,” he said.
Brigadier General Lon Sophath, chief of the Kratie provincial police, said the men could face between 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilty of murder.
The Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance and the Cambodian Club of Journalists have roundly condemned the killing, which was the 13th since the 1993 general election.
Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Cambodia 144th out of 180 surveyed countries in its 2014 media freedom index.