Journo’s body found in car boot

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Independent Newspapers

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian journalist who reported on rampant illegal logging in the country has been found murdered in the boot of his car, police said on Wednesday.

Hang Serei Oudom, a reporter at local-language Vorakchun Khmer Daily, was discovered on Tuesday, said senior police officer Song Bunthanorm. The vehicle was abandoned in a cashew nut plantation in northern Ratanakiri province.

“It is not a robbery case. It is a murder,” he said, adding the victim had suffered several blows to the head, probably by an axe.

The 44-year-old had been missing since leaving his home on Sunday evening.

“He wrote stories about forest crimes involving business people and powerful officials in the province,” said Vorakchun Khmer Daily editor-in-chief Rin Ratanak.

“Most of his stories were about illegal logging of luxury wood,” he added.

Rampant illegal logging contributed to a sharp drop in Cambodia's forest cover from 73 percent in 1990 to 57 percent in 2010, according to the United Nations.

In its haste to develop the impoverished nation, the government has been criticised for allowing well-connected firms to clear hundreds of thousands of hectares (acres) of forest land - including in protected zones - for everything from rubber and sugar cane plantations to hydropower dams.

Rights groups and environmental watchdogs have linked many of these concessions to rampant illegal logging, and say armed government forces are routinely used to act as security guards for offending companies.

In late April, prominent environmentalist Chhut Vuthy was shot dead by a military policeman after he refused to hand over pictures showing logging in southwestern Koh Kong province.

Following the outcry over Vuthy's death, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a freeze on new land grants, a move cautiously welcomed by environmental groups, who nevertheless argue it will not save the forests already under threat. - Sapa-AFP


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