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Victory against impunity: Cambodian journalist killers charged

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 13 November 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) in welcoming the sentencing of six individuals in Kampong Chhang Provincial Court on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, following the brutal murder of a journalist in January this year.

The IFJ calls of the Cambodian government to ensure that the highest efforts are made to ensure five of the six killers, who were sentenced in absentia, are found and jailed as a priority.

Suon Chan, a 44-year-old reporter for the Khmer language Meakea Kampuchea newspaper, was killed on January 31 when he left his house in Cholkiri district's Peam Chhkork commune. The journalist was set upon by a gang of fishermen who attacked him with stones and bamboo sticks. He received medical treatment in a provincial hospital but later died of his injuries after being transported to a Phnom Penh hospital. Prior to his death, Suon Chan had been reporting on illegal fishing in the local commune.

On October 7, the trial of Chan's murderers began at Kampong Chang provincial court. Six attackers were charged with 'attempted murder' by the prosecution, in absentia, but did not face the court as they still remained at large.

On November 12, the six killers were each sentenced to 13 years in jail and also each ordered to pay Suon's family five million riel each (USD1,250). Thea Leng, who was arrested in October, is the only killer currently in police custody.

CAPJ President Um Sarin said: "We welcome the result of Kompong Chnang court punishing the persons who killed the journalist in Kompong Chnang. We urge the authorities to seek and bring the remaining five persons to jail quickly."

The IFJ has documented a concerning pattern of violence against Cambodian media workers in 2014, but welcomes the sentencing as a firm sign of action by authorities against media attacks.

"Sadly this year three journalists have lost their lives, and this is the first case of justice. We call on the Cambodian authorities to also ensure all efforts are brought to bear to find those responsible for the murders of Traing Try and Canadian national David Walker," said the IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, Jane Worthington.

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