Cambodian police charged with journalist’s murder

Human Rights Watch says ‘cold-blooded killing shows again just how dangerous Cambodia is for journalists’ investigating illegal logging.

13 October 2014 11:43 (Last updated 13 October 2014 11:44)
By Kate Bartlett


A soldier and two police officers have been arrested for shooting dead a newspaper reporter who was involved in an investigation into illegal logging in Cambodia’s rural northeast.

The Cambodia Daily reported Monday that Taing Try, 47, and six other reporters had gone to investigate a warehouse allegedly owned by the brother of the local military police chief after hearing that illegal luxury wood was being stored there.

The reporters set off in their own cars, with one of them receiving a threatening call from the police chief ordering them to turn back. They ignored the threat, but then one of them found Try slumped next to his car on a dirt track, a bullet wound to his head.

“My colleague Taing Try was shot with a single bullet to his head and died beside his Camry car,” Sa Piseth, editor of the Niseth Khmer newspaper, told the Daily.

Police called to the scene of the crime discovered another vehicle, a luxury SUV, overturned further down the road. It was empty, its occupants having fled.

They traced the vehicle to a local police officer, a military police officer, and an armed forces soldier who they say overturned the vehicle as they attempted to flee the murder scene.

The three men were brought in for questioning and subsequently confessed, the Daily reported, although their exact motives are still unclear.

Cambodia’s forests have been much depleted by illegal logging as luxury Rosewood can sell for thousands of dollars and there is a large market for the timber in China.

It is not the first time journalists writing on the involvement of officials in illegal logging have faced persecution. Reporters who try to investigate the issue are regularly threatened and some have been killed.

“This cold-blooded killing shows again just how dangerous Cambodia is for journalists, especially those who investigate wrongdoing about the country’s land and forests,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told the Daily.

“Police have to conduct a professional and impartial investigation of his murder, and the government must commit to end the impunity that attackers of news reporters far too often enjoy,” he added.

Ten journalists have been murdered since 1993, with all cases still unsolved.

In 2012 a journalist, Hang Serei Oudom, was found dead and stuffed in the boot of his car after reporting on military involvement in illegal logging.

Some journalists, however, have been known to try and extort money from officials caught trafficking wood.

Freedom House noted in its 2013 report on press freedom in Cambodia that “Journalists’ pay is very low, and accepting bribes to run or withhold particular stories is not uncommon.”