A CPP-aligned newspaper on Wednesday published and then quickly deleted an online article asking why there had never been arrests in the murders of starlets including Piseth Pilika—an alleged mistress of Prime Minister Hun Sen who a report in 1999 claimed was killed on his wife’s orders.
The Kampuchea Thmey Daily, which is directed by Mr. Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana, according to a local media watchdog, posted the scathing article at the top of its website with a photo of Piseth Pilika at 11:40 a.m. but deleted it by 11:49 a.m.
The article was headlined “Up Until Now, It’s Been Quiet Like a Thief Stealing a Horse When It Comes to the Murders of Four Cambodian Stars,” and written by Entry Tep—or “Magic Eagle.” The newspaper often uses pseudonyms on its articles.
It also noted attacks on three other stars besides Piseth Pilika, who it incorrectly stated were also murdered. The other stars were, in fact, maimed by acid or paralyzed by bullets shot at their necks, in cases also believed to be linked to affairs with high-ranking officials.
“They say that when it comes to the brutal murders of four Cambodian stars in the past—the singer Touch Sreynich, the performer Tat Marina, the performer Piseth Pilika, and the singer Pov Panhapic—until now there have no relevant institutions caring to help find justice for the victims,” it said.
“It’s been quiet like a thief stealing a horse.”
The article did not mention the government’s current aggressive prosecution of claims deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha took a mistress, but noted that many people have recently been talking about the four attacks that took place between 1999 and 2007.
“Some people have brought up with wonder why the murders of the four female Cambodian stars above have not seen police able to arrest even one of the perpetrators and put them in jail—or that the cases are all mysterious,” the article said.
“Whatever the case, the authorities and the courts should review these case files again in order to find justice for these victims and their families.”
The article then recounted the attacks on the four stars starting with Piseth Pilika, whose killer has never been caught but whose murder the French weekly L’Express magazine attributed to orders from Mr. Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany, in an article published in the months after the attack.
“It ought to be recalled that the murder of the star Piseth Pilika happened at 8:50 a.m. on July 16, 1999, in the area of the O’Russei Market, while she was helping her niece purchase a bicycle,” Kampuchea Thmey’s article said.
“A ruthless gunman shot her with three bullets, and one bullet for her niece. She and her niece were immediately taken to the intensive care unit at Calmette Hospital, and she died a week later,” it said.
“At her funeral, hundreds of thousands of people turned out, with each individual person shouting out to demand that authorities find justice for her.”
The article then detailed the case of Tat Marina, who in December 1999 was the 15-year-old mistress of Svay Sitha, then a CPP undersecretary of state at the Council of Ministers who has since been promoted to secretary of state.
Ms. Marina was feeding her niece rice porridge near the Olympic Market in Phnom Penh when Mr. Sitha’s wife poured a liter of flesh-eating nitric acid over her.
The skin on the young music-video starlet’s face, neck, ears, back, wrists and chest melted away, and doctors had to remove her ears, leaving her—the article said—“disabled for life” and living in the U.S.
“The case of the acid being thrown on the star, Tat Marina, occurred because of the jealousy of a woman who was the wife of an official who has a high-profile in society,” the article said.
The government claimed in 2011 that Mr. Sitha’s wife was found guilty of the crime, but she never spent a day in jail.
The Kampuchea Thmey article also recounts—in more brevity—the 2003 shooting of Ms. Sreynich and 2007 shooting of Ms. Panhapich, who were both left paralyzed after being shot in the neck at point-blank range in cases believed linked to jealous wives.
It then concludes with a sense of befuddlement over why the four cases have never seen any arrests, despite the savage nature of the crimes and intense public interest.
“Some circles, in general, say that up until now, it’s already been 10 years, but the criminals are still able to evade [arrest] as usual, and they don’t know whether that comes from weakness of the institutions with authority, or from a different reason entirely.”
Asked why Kampuchea Thmey had published and then deleted the news article, its editor-in-chief, Hy Borin, said on Wednesday that the article was published without his knowledge.
“I had not approved the publication of that story yet,” Mr. Borin said. “I told them to delete it because I had not yet approved it, and when I read it there was not a complete meaning or any new clues.”
“I think it was trying to dig them back up,” he said of the cases, the most recent of which occurred nine years ago.
“The writer took no information from the court, he just wrote it from himself and one side,” he added. “We won’t need to punish him, but we just won’t allow him to publish it.”
The article appeared at the top of Kampuchea Thmey’s homepage above pictures of Piseth Pilika and Ms. Panhapich, but was promptly replaced after its deletion by a link to the article: “A Red-Pen Summons Calls Kem Sokha to Show Himself Again on May 26.”
Under the link were photographs of Mr. Sokha and Khom Chandaraty, 25, his alleged mistress.
Many people have questioned why authorities have pursued Mr. Sokha’s alleged affairs so aggressively given inactivity in the past cases. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak explained last month that police did not have a “magic eye” to find the perpetrators.
Yet in contrast to the outward police inaction in the cases of Piseth Pilika, Ms. Marina, Ms. Sreynich and Ms. Panhapich, the Interior Ministry’s counterterrorism police and the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) have been employed to thoroughly investigate Mr. Sokha’s case.
The Kampuchea Thmey Daily is directed by Ms. Mana—a daughter of Mr. Hun Sen who also runs Bayon TV and the BTV News channel—according to the Cambodian Center for Independent Media’s “Who Owns the Media” guide released earlier this year.
Wednesday’s article did not mention claims that Ms. Rany ordered the star’s death, but the allegations are well known among Cambodians, having been first made by L’Express based on extensive diary entries left by the star, and then disseminated in a booklet that was banned for sale in Phnom Penh in 2003.
General Sopheak, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday that the Kampuchea Thmey article was right to say there had been no arrests but blamed the families of the victims for not helping give evidence to police.
“The witnesses don’t cooperate, and the victims’ families refuse to give information,” Gen. Sopheak said.
“As an example, when people lose their wallet, if they don’t know anything about it, when they complain to the police, how can the police find it?”