Try, 49, a freelance journalist for several local newspapers, was shot dead while investigating alleged illegal logging activities in Cambodia’s eastern Kratie province, according to news reports.
He was traveling with a group of eight other journalists at around midnight when they saw several ox-led carts carrying logs, reports said. 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 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 him.
Police detained a local commune police chief, a military police officer, and a former soldier named La Narong on the day of Try’s killing, 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. The other two detained suspects were identified as Kem Pheakdy and Pin Heng, according to a Voice of America report. The three were also accused of possession of illegal weapons, the report said.
On October 15, Try’s wife, Chhoem Mom, filed a complaint with the court, asking it to arrest and press murder charges against Snuol district military police commander Chhun Khoeun and his brother Chhun Hoeun, according to a Cambodia Daily report. Chea Lyhieng, one of the journalists traveling with Try when he was killed, was quoted in the report as saying Khoeun and Hoeun had warned their group by telephone to stop monitoring activities at Hoeun’s timber warehouse. Khoeun denied making the phone call and denied any involvement in Try’s killing, according to the same report. It was not immediately apparent from news reports whether either of them was arrested.
Sok Sovann, head of the Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association, of which Try was a member, 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 against Try and said there was no evidence to corroborate them. He said Try had received several death threats before his murder, according to a Voice of America report.
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.