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Journalist questioned, harassed, assaulted by military police after reporting on officer's alleged involvement in illegal logging

(SEAPA/IFEX) - A Cambodian military police captain slapped a journalist when the latter refused to retract his allegation that the officer was conniving to transport illegal logs to Sihanouksville.

Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), a SEAPA partner, reported that Capt. Nget Chantha from the Stung Hav district detachment threatened and slapped "Koh Santepheap" newspaper reporter Ros Phina. The incident took place inside the military police barracks on 25 July 2008.

Phina had written an article in the 24 July issue of "Koh Santepheap" alleging that Chantha was in cahoots with forestry officials in transporting daily four to 10 cubic meters of illegally cut logs to the Cambodian port city of Sihanouksville.

Phina said Chantha wanted him to recant his allegations. When he refused, Chantha allegedly slapped him violently.

On 1 August, Phina was summoned to the police station. Phina alleged that the investigating officer, Capt. Var Chanthan, who is also head of the criminal investigation bureau, interrogated him for more than three hours inside a large, barren room. Instead of taking his statements about the slapping incident, Chanthan allegedly tried to find out who were his sources for the 24 July article. Phina said Chanthan's questions implied that he was the suspect and not the victim.

The reporter was summoned again to the police station on 4 August. Chanthan ordered him to turn off his mobile phone and tape recorder. When Phina refused, Chanthan became angry and said he would halt the investigation.

Phina later filed charges against Chantha at the Sihanouksville municipal court.

CAPJ reported that the military police captain apologised to Phina on 11 August, with Phina's editor as witness. In return, charges against the suspect were dropped.

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