Another journalist attacked in Cambodia for covering illegal logging

Jeremy Hance
September 27, 2012

Illegal logging of rosewood, a highly sought luxury timber, in Virachey National Park. Photo by: Greg McCann.
Illegal logging of rosewood, a highly sought luxury timber, in Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri Province. Photo by: Greg McCann.

Two weeks after an environmental journalist was found murdered in the trunk of his car, another journalist has been brutally attacked in Cambodia. Ek Sokunthy with the local paper Ta Prum says he was beaten in his home by three assailants by a pistol and a stick. The attack follows swiftly after the high-profile murder of 44-year-old forest journalist Hang Serei Oudom.

Ta Prum's Phum Chesda told the Phnom Penh Post that Sokunthy had written an article on illegal logging last month. Sokunthy received three death threats after publishing the article.

Sokunthy described his assailants as "illegal loggers," telling the Post that, "I have never written of their case. I didn’t know the reason why they beat me because I always wrote stories favorable to authorities and am fearful now."

Police are currently searching for the three attackers, one of whom was allegedly a former police officer.

Both Sokunthy and Oudom covered illegal logging in Ratanakkiri Province. In early September, Odum was found dead in the trunk of his car in a cashew plantation in Ratanakkiri. Police believed he was killed by axe blows to his head.

Attacks against environmental journalists and campaigners is becoming an epidemic in Cambodia, where illegal logging and land conflict between foreign companies and local communities are rife. Also this month, three journalists saw their motorcycles damaged when they took photos of illegal logging. And earlier this year, Chut Wutty a longtime forest activist was shot and killed while escorting two journalists to an area known for illegal logging. Various stories have been put forward of Wutty's shooting, but no official investigation has been started.

A government program of handing out 'economic land concessions' to companies for logging, mining, and agriculture has added fuel to the fire. According to The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc) two million hectares (4.9 million acres) of Cambodia—comprising over 10 percent of the country's total land area—have been handed out, some of which is in protected areas.

Cambodia has lost nearly a quarter (22 percent) of its forest cover in the past 20 years. As of 2010, around 57 percent of the country was covered in forest, but only 3.2 percent of this was primary forest.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (September 27, 2012).

Another journalist attacked in Cambodia for covering illegal logging.