Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Journalist alleges threats from Kratie Military Police official over illegal logging story

A screenshot of a video provided by Kin Sary shows logs being transported in Kratie province on November 16.
A screenshot of a video provided by Kin Sary shows logs being transported in Kratie province on November 16.

A Kratie journalist has alleged that the provincial Military Police commander threatened him for reporting a story of illegal timber transports, where sources claimed the Military Police facilitated the movement of luxury logs.

Kin Sary, owner of Basith TV, said he filed a complaint with the national leadership of the Military Police, alleging that Kratie Military Police Commander San Bunthan had threatened him, an allegation denied by the official.

“I fear for my personnel security when I go to report somewhere, after [San Bunthan] threatened me,” Sary said.

The news publication owner said he was following four to five motorcycles carrying timber on November 16 at 10 p.m. The motorcycles were heading to the Vietnam border and Sary took photos and published a story the next day, he said. The journalists also had sources claiming that the timber transport involved giving bribes to Military Police officials.

“They can transport timber because they collude with and pay money to Military Police officers,” Sary said, referring to source interviews.

After publishing the story, Sary said Bunthan walked towards him at a restaurant on November 22 and threatened him. “You be careful,” Bunthan said. “Why have you published a story about only my subordinates? Why not about police and military officials at the border?”

Bunthan then got his assistant to summon Sary on November 30 and December 1, but the publisher was afraid to attend the meeting.

“I think that he has intentions to threaten journalists not to disseminate stories about logging and transport of timber,” he said.

Sary said he had filed a complaint with Military Police Commander Sao Sokha.

Bunthan did not want to comment on the allegations and directed all questions to Sary.

Military Police Spokesperson Eng Hy said the security force will look into the allegations, but that Bunthan has denied there was illegal timber transport, as reported in Sary’s story.

“We have to look at whether it happens or not,” he said. “The [military police] had summoned him to verify [the story] but he didn’t show up,” he said.

Hy said that the force’s senior leadership had instructed all Military Police officials to not get involved with the timber trade and that they would be punished or stripped off their titles if they committed crimes.

Nai Tida, provincial director of the Information Department, said she wasn’t aware of the case but claimed that normally reporters were involved in extortion to not report stories.

“It does not seem like what [reporters] have accused because when at public forums, villagers always said journalists extorted money,” she said.

Nop Vy, executive director at Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA), said officials were used to using their power and influence to pressure and threaten people including journalists.

“We are worried about this because when they use their power to threaten people it demonstrates no respect for the law,” Vy said.

He said officials would also intimidate journalists to prevent them from reporting any wrongdoing in the provinces.