The editor-in-chief of a Cambodian newspaper, “Sralanh Khmer” (Love Khmer) has received death threats and a lawsuit from a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen, reports coming out Phnom Penh say. The editor reportedly is being harassed for a published article which suggests that Hun Sen’s nephew, Hun Tho, was involved in a land-grabbing case in Northeast Mondolkiri province.
Cambodian human rights group Alliance for Free Expression in Cambodia (AFEC) says “Sralanh Khmer” editor You Saravuth has gone into hiding after receiving several threats over the telephone from Hun Tho. This supposedly comes on top of a meeting between the two, in which Hun Tho allegedly threatened to send military police to monitor the journalist’s movements.
AFEC said You Saravuth’s lawyer Chet Sarath on 26 June filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over the threatening phone calls. But a local newspaper, “Rasmey Kampuchea,” quoted Hun Tho as saying that he only invited You Saravuth to his house to see evidence of the land grabbing he was
On June 23, “Sralanh Khmer” issued a statement alleging that Hun Thao and another person threatened to kill the editor of the newspaper. The statement cited the meeting at Hun Tho’s residence and an anonymous fax to You Saravuth containing his photograph marked with an “X” in front.
On that same day, Hun Tho’s lawyer reportedly filed a lawsuit against You Saravuth for “misinformation”.
In the June 15-17 edition of “Saralanh Khmer”, a story quoted unnamed sources close to officials in the National Land Dispute Committee as saying Hun Tho, who is the
son of Hun Sen’s brother Hun Neng, and Kun Kim, who is deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, illegally took over thousands of hectares in Mondolkiri province.
The article said land-grabbing was a widespread issue in province, and crticised Hun Sen’s failure to follow through on promises to put a stop to the problem.
The story also challenged the Prime Minister to punish any of his relatives implicated in the matter.
Despite a relatively free media environment, Cambodian journalists still face lawsuits and death threats over reports attempting to investigate widespread corruption and favoritism in government. Land grabs allegedly perpetrated or tolerated by government officials, the Khmer Rouge, and issues surrounding the Cambodia-Vietnam border demarcation, are among the most sensitive issues for the government.