Police apprehended three suspects last week in the fatal shooting of a Sam Rainsy Party activist in Siem Reap province, saying the killing was sparked when the victim mocked a man for buying wine instead of donating to his local pagoda.
The victim, who sometimes acted as a traditional healer, was also suspected of practicing sorcery and killing people who came to him to be cured of simple illnesses, police said.
The shooting of Touch Voeun on Aug 23 was widely condemned by human rights groups that determined that his death was politically motivated.
Three men are now behind bars and will be tried on a charge of premeditated murder, said Duong Sokha, a Penal Police officer in Siem Reap.
“They confessed that they had a personal revenge with the victim,” said Duong Sokha.
The arrest was hailed Wednesday by Phi Thach, Cabinet chief of the Sam Rainsy Party, but he disagreed with police over the killer’s motives.
Touch Voeun was a popular man in his village, a candidate for the upcoming commune elections and a man who seemed destined to win the local ballot, Phi Thach said.
“It is a political killing,” he said.
Authorities identified the suspects as Kert Kun, 39, Chhav Chhoeun, 34, and Sort Sak, 22. Police allege that Kert Kun fired the gun, an AK-47, while Chhav Chhoeun was an accomplice. Sort Sak owned the weapon.
Police arrested all three last week, investigators said. Kompong Speu police arrested Kert Kun and Sort Sak on Nov 5 in Kong Pisei district of Kompong Speu province. The area is Kert Kun’s native home, police said.
Chhav Chhoeun was arrested last week in Siem Reap province, police said.
The suspects were sent to Siem Reap province Nov 6 for questioning.
Touch Voeun was asleep in his Tapiem village home when two men burst into his house and shot him twice, police said. He died a few hours later.