The two journalists Vann Vichar and Chun Chanren were arrested in Poipet city, in Banteay Meanchey province, while covering prominent former opposition figure Sam Rainsy’s attempted to return to Cambodia. November 9 was the day the longtime opposition leader had pegged as his return date to Cambodia, potentially ending nearly four years of exile. Rainsy fled Cambodia in 2016 after being hit with defamation case for accusations against the Hun Sen’s government its alleged involvement in the murder of political activist Kem Ley.
Cambodian police tightened security around border and entry points of the Poipet in the anticipated return of Rainsy on November 9. According to the Cambodian Journalist Alliance (CamboJA), the journalists were detained and questioned for more than three hours at the Poipet International Checkpoint. Military police searched the journalists’ possessions including their cameras, telephones and computers before later releasing them.
Poipet city’s military police commander, Major Nuon Ninaro, said the two reporters were “invited” for questioning on suspicion of being involved with a group of Rainsy supporters.
The BBC reported on November 8 that Rainsy had planned to return to lead the people's "fight for a better life," describing Prime Minister Hun Sen as "a brutal dictator". However, his return was thwarted after being repeatedly blocked from boarding flights in Paris, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The IFJ said: “Questioning journalists and suspecting their involvement in the opposition movement directly undermines the independence of media reporting through intimidation and other means. The IFJ calls on the authorities to ensure journalists are not pressured by the threat of arrest or intimidation by police in their coverage of stories in the public interest.”