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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian police said Monday that they have detained three men, including a timber trader, believed to be linked to the weekend shooting death of a local journalist who was investigating illegal logging in the country's east.

Freelance journalist Taing Try, 49, was shot in the forehead and died instantly early Sunday at a remote forestry site in Kratie province, said Sok Sovann, who heads the Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association.

Illegal logging is rampant in Cambodia, and often occurs under the protection of government agencies or influential people, environmental groups have charged.

Taing Try was investigating illegal timber trading with several colleagues at the time of the shooting. Sok Savann said that at around midnight Saturday they observed timber being transported on several ox carts, and that afterward — when their vehicle got stuck in the mud on a dirt road — they were approached by the timber's owners.

Hours after the killing, police arrested three men suspected of involvement in the incident, said Oum Phy, Kratie's deputy police chief.

The men included a local commune police chief, a military police officer, and a former soldier and timber trader named La Narong who confessed to the killing and said he got into an argument with the journalist, according to Oum Phy.

In April 2012, prominent environmentalist Chut Wutty was fatally shot in southwest Cambodia's Koh Kong province after taking two journalists to look at a logging camp there. In September 2012, another local journalist investigating illegal logging, Hang Serei Oudom, was killed in northeastern Ratanakiri province.

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