Eight Arrested for Allegedly Extorting Woodwork Shop as Journalists

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A man stands next to a truck that was found transporting timber from Prey Preah Roka National Park in Preah Vihear province in January 2019 (Heng Sros)

Eight people have been charged for extortion in Preah Vihear province after allegedly extorting the owner of a woodworking workshop as journalists.

Provincial court spokesperson Chum Kaniya said the eight had been placed in pretrial detention on Sunday for extortion. She said she did not have further information, including whether the workshop would also be investigated.

Lor Chan, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said that according to his information, four people initially extorted the workshop for 150,000 riel, or about $37.50, each.

Then eight people returned to the workshop demanding $100 each, but the owner refused to pay more than $50.

The owner then filed a court complaint, leading to the arrests, Chan said.

He said attention should also turn to the workshop owner. “Why is he willing to spend millions [of riel] if has done nothing wrong?” Chan asked. “If you have not committed a crime, why do you need to give money?”

Cambodian Journalists Alliance executive director Nop Vy added that journalists were regularly accused of crimes when covering stories, and said the workshop should also be investigated for the sake of transparency.

“We also urge the authorities to monitor and investigate clearly,” Vy said.

Extortionists posing as journalists has been a recurring issue for years, often in connection to reporters taking bribes in relation to timber trafficking cases. But it is also often unclear whether the extortionists are actually journalists or the accusations against them are genuine.

A Preah Vihear police spokesperson, Hok Heng, would only say on Monday that police were following court orders. Neither the workshop in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Preah Khlaing commune nor a provincial prosecutor could be reached.

Information Ministry spokesperson Meas Sophorn said the ministry had not yet intervened in the case, leaving the local authorities to do their work.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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