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Murder of Crusading Reporter in Cambodia Prompts Inquiry

A few of a total of 20 trucks loaded with timber wait at the Cambodian border post of Bavet for clearance to cross into Vietnam, Dec. 21, 1997.
Cambodia police are investigating the murder of a journalist who reported on illegal logging and corruption. Reporting on such topics has often resulted in threats to journalists and activists.

Police say the body of Hang Serei Oudom, 44, was found Tuesday in the trunk of a car in the remote northeast province of Ratanakkiri.

Oudom’s editor at Vorakchun Khmer, a small newspaper published twice weekly, was Rin Ratanak.

He says Oudom wrote general stories, but nearly all relate to illegal logging and illegal wood transportation. Ratanak says the last story the reporter wrote related to a military officer involved in the illegal logging business.

But while his stories may have veered into sensitive territory, Ratanak said he was unaware of threats to the journalist.

He says he wants the government to find the killer and bring swift justice for the victim.

Illegal logging is a significant problem in Cambodia. Activists and journalists have faced threats of violence when trying to shine a spotlight on the issue.

In April, environmental activist Chut Wutty was slain while investigating illegal logging in another part of the country.

But Ratanakkiri district police chief Em Vun says it is too early to link Oudom’s death with his reporting.

He says police are deep in the investigation and it is still not clear if it is related to his job. He says the investigation will continue.

On Wednesday, rights groups said Oudom’s death was an example of a trend of increased violence against journalists throughout the region.