Journalist probing illegal logging killed in Cambodia

Bangkok, October 14, 2014–A journalist investigating alleged illegal logging activities in eastern Cambodia was shot dead early Sunday, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the killing and calls on authorities to identify the motive and ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Taing Try, a freelance reporter and a member of the independent Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association, was traveling with a group of eight other journalists at around midnight on Saturday when they saw several ox-led carts carrying logs, according to local reports.

Soon after, the vehicle carrying Try and another reporter became stuck on a dirt road. An assailant approached and shot Try in the forehead, reports said. The other reporter was not injured, according to the reports.

The assailant, who was identified in news reports as the owner of the logs, attempted to drive away from the scene, but was forced to flee on foot after his vehicle crashed, according to news reports. There were conflicting reports about whether the killer verbally confronted Try before shooting the journalist.

Sok Sovann, head of the Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association, said that Try had been accused in the past of attempting to extort money from timber traders, according to news reports. Sovann denied the allegations and said there was no evidence to back them up.

Police detained a local commune police chief, a military police officer, and a former soldier named La Narong, according to news reports citing Oum Phy, Kratie province’s deputy police chief. La Narong confessed to the crime, according to Oum Phy, the reports said.

“Cambodian journalists reporting on sensitive environmental issues, especially the rampant illegal logging trade, are all too frequently targeted with threats and reprisals,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on Cambodian authorities to identify the motive behind the killing and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Illegal logging activities are rife in Cambodia, and news coverage of the trade has proven to be extremely dangerous for journalists, according to CPJ research. In September 2012, Hang Serei Odom, an environmental journalist who frequently reported on illegal logging in eastern Ratanakiri province, was found murdered in the trunk of his car. Two suspects, a military police officer and his wife, were acquitted in April 2013 due to lack of evidence.

In April 2012, environmental activist Chut Wutty was shot and killed in April while leading two Cambodian Daily reporters to an illegal logging site in southern Koh Kong province. The gunman was killed in unclear circumstances.