Journalist beaten to death in Cambodia

Bangkok, February 7, 2014–Cambodian authorities must identify the motive behind the killing of a local journalist on February 1 and ensure his assailants are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Suon Chan had reported on illegal fishing activities near his village shortly before his death.

News accounts reported that a group of fishermen attacked Suon Chan, reporter for the local-language Meakea Kampuchea newspaper, while he was outside his home in Peam Chhkork commune, Cholkiri district of central Kampong Chhnang province. The assailants beat him repeatedly with stones and sticks, and attacked two of his relatives who came to his aid, the reports said. The journalist died while headed to a local hospital, according to the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists.

Suon Chan had reported on illegal fishing in Peam Chhkork commune, which led to a police crackdown on the activities, the reports said.

Duong Vuthy, police chief of Peam Chhkork commune, told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that Suon Chan’s killing was likely motivated by his reports on illegal fishing. He said the police unit’s preliminary investigations indicated that those involved in the illegal fishing, who were exposed in Suon Chan’s stories, were likely related to the murder.

But Morm Thon, Cholkiri district’s police chief, told Radio Free Asia that initial investigations indicated that Suon Chon’s murder was not related to his reporting on illegal fishing. He said the investigations had identified three suspects, but that no arrests had been made.

“Journalists in Cambodia who dare to report on illicit activities are frequently targeted for reprisals without any repercussions for the perpetrators,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Cambodian authorities could take a meaningful step toward breaking this cycle of impunity by identifying the motive behind the murder and apprehending and punishing Suon Chan’s killers to the full extent of the law.”

In 2012, Cambodian journalist Hang Serei Odom’s body was discovered in the trunk of his car in Rattanakiri province. Before his death, Oudom had alleged in his reporting that a military policeman had used military vehicles to transport illegally cut logs. In August 2013, a Cambodian court acquitted two suspects, a military police official and his wife, in the murder, citing a lack of evidence.