Reporter flees Cambodia after death threat

New York, May 1, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about the latest in a series of anonymous threats received by Radio Free Asia (RFA) investigative reporter Lem Pichpisey in Cambodia.

On April 10, Pichpisey’s 11-year-old daughter found six AK-47 rifle bullets placed neatly in a row in front of his family’s house in western Battambang province. According to RFA Senior Editor Daniel Southerland, such a warning could be construed as a death threat in a Cambodian context. Pichpisey was investigating a drug trafficking case involving a casino, a high-ranking police officer, and the murder of a drug suspect in the western border town of Poi Pet, according to Southerland.

The next day, Pichpisey and his family fled Battambang for the capital, Phnom Penh, where he had worked in RFA’s offices as an editor. Due to continued concerns for his personal safety, Pichpisey recently fled Cambodia and is now in an undisclosed country.  

“We call upon Prime Minister Hun Sen to immediately launch an independent inquiry into the threats made against Radio Free Asia reporter Lem Pichpisey,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “In recent years, Cambodia has repeatedly claimed that it respects and protects press freedom. Now it must back those words with actions.”

Pichpisey often tackles tough stories, including recent hard-hitting reports on illegal logging, judicial corruption, police abuses, and politically charged land disputes. He was forced to flee Cambodia for Thailand twice in 2007 after receiving death threats related to his reports on illegal logging.

In January and February, Pichpisey received anonymous text messages on his cell phone warning him to “watch out,” with requests to meet the message senders at different hotels in Battambang province. He did not go to any of the proposed meetings, according to RFA editor Southerland.