Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Journalists complain of detention after trespassing

Police officers question journalists at the Kon Mom district police office in Ratanakiri province on March 20, 2020. Supplied

Eight journalists were earlier this month detained by police overnight after they “unknowingly” entered a private plantation in Ratanakiri province.

Chiep Sambath, one of the eight journalists, said the group was visiting Hatpak village, in Veun Sai district’s Hatpak commune, on March 20 to report on school closures. However, when they arrived, the villagers told them that outsiders were not allowed to enter because it was a traditional day of celebration.

The journalists “rushed out” on a different road because the villagers said they would demand a pig or cow from them under village rules, Sambath said. “After leaving the village, the journalists unknowingly entered SK Company land because the company had no fences, no guards, banners or signs to mark the company’s location,” he said.

The plantation is a Singaporean-owned, 8,000-hectare rubber plantation, according to Open Development Cambodia.

After being stopped by plantation workers, Kon Mom district police detained the journalists overnight. Phork Borith, the district’s police chief, said the company had complained because management was worried the journalists could bring coronavirus to its workers.

The following morning, the company and journalists reached an agreement that the company would drop its complaint and the journalists would not enter the company’s property in the future, Borith said.

SK representative Pen Vong could not be reached for comment.

In a separate case in Svay Rieng province, two journalists were detained by provincial military police earlier this month purportedly after they reported on the allegedly illegal transport of pigs from Thailand to Vietnam via Cambodia.

On Sam Oeun, publisher of the Anachaknokorphnom news site, said he believed the detention was related to his reporting on the transport of pigs on Feb. 17.

When he was questioned and detained overnight on March 25, however, provincial military police accused him of posing as a soldier, Sam Oeun said. He said he had merely worn clothes and a hat bought from the market, and that the car with armed-forces license plates he was driving was not his.