A human rights activist, who was the leader of a community group to protect local forestry and fisheries, was shot dead in his home in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district Wednesday evening, police and rights workers said Thursday.
Father of seven Seng Sarorn, 45, an Adhoc activist and forestry and fishery community chief, died instantly around 9 pm in Sre Kor commune, after an assailant fired a single shot from beneath the floor of Seng Sarorn’s wooden stilt house, the officials said.
“I cannot make any comment now while police are investigating,” Nguon Koeurn, Stung Treng’s deputy provincial police chief, said by telephone before declining further comment.
Yen Run, provincial manager of the local NGO Culture and Preservation Association, which is based in northeast Cambodia, said that Seng Sarorn was elected chief of the Neak Ta Ka Kann forestry and fishery community last year, and his slaying was linked to his work.
“This must be revenge for his activities to serve the community,” Yen Run said, adding that provincial police would not allow human rights workers near Seng Sarorn’s house after the killing.
Ny Chakrya, Stung Treng monitoring chief for Adhoc, said Seng Sarorn had been an Adhoc activist for five years and that he suspects the killing was connected to his local environmental protection work.
“I suspect the killing is a revenge against his activities in forestry and fishery,” Ny Chakrya said, adding that Adhoc is investigating the case.
Thun Saray, president of Adhoc, described Seng Sarorn as a dedicated activist and called on the government and police to fully investigate his death. “We would like to appeal to the government and authorities to investigate and punish the perpetrator in this killing,” he said. “We also appeal to the government to have their people take this case seriously.”
Sarorn Seng, 20, son of Seng Sarorn, who was present during the shooting, said his father was shot while he and his mother were listening to the radio.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that he was unaware of the case and referred questions to the Stung Treng provincial police.
Provincial Governor Loy Sophat said the motive behind the killing was still unclear, but that police have confirmed it was not related to a robbery.
Loy Sophat, however, speculated Seng Sarorn’s human rights and environmental work were not linked to his murder.
“I don’t think he was killed because of his services that benefited the nation,” he said.
Pen Bonnar, Adhoc coordinator for neighboring Ratanakkiri province, said he did not have enough information to comment on his colleague’s death, but added that criminal activities against local activists are on the rise. “When the activities of human rights activists are strong, powerful people are not happy and they can do something against them,” he said.