Family members of a man missing since he was last seen in September’s demonstrations in Phnom Penh say they have identified his corpse, found bound and dumped in a canal three days after he disappeared.
Lim An, 72, on Wednesday produced photographs from the UN human rights office of a corpse he believes to be his son, Lim Thong, 31. The corpse in the photographs also match the description of the body given in an Oct 28 UN human rights report.
Lim Thong’s sister last week inspected the body for distinguishing marks and recognized a foot scar, Lim An said in an interview in the family’s Prampi Makara district apartment.
The family also produced a set of photographs from 1996 showing Lim Thong, alive, wearing clothes nearly identical to those worn by the corpse.
“When I saw the pictures, I was very sad,” Lim An, said of the corpse photographs. “It has been very hard on us.”
White electrical wire tied the corpse’s hands behind its back and a long-sleeved, multi-colored shirt was pulled off of its torso, down to the wrists and elbows.
A krama was in the body’s mouth and it was blindfolded.
The killing was also documented in a September report by the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee, although the corpse’s clothing is described differently. The government panel accused UN investigators of tampering with the body.
Lim Thong’s family said in a Nov 10 interview that they feared he was dead.
On Wednesday, after seeing the body and pictures, they said they were sure.
“I had advised my son not to join the demonstrations, and he said, ‘OK, OK,’” Lim An said.
No clear identification was made until Friday, family members said. The UN on Wednesday confirmed that they had aided the family in identifying the corpse.
“We are continuing to investigate the circumstances of [Lim Thong’s] death,” said Rosemary McCreery, director of the UN rights office here.
At least 34 people were killed in August and September in circumstances the UN is investigating as being “election-related.”
Police and rights workers first inspected the body on Sept 13 after it was found in the bushes outside the capital along a Kandal province irrigation canal in Prek Kampoeu commune, Kandal Stung district.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said police are investigating cases documented by the government rights committee. But he said he does not know if police had identified Lim Thong or solved any of the cases.
Mao Chandara, chief of staff for the National Police, said his staff is investigating killings documented by the UN, but that he has not received a completed report on any of the cases.
He said his staff is not working with the UN.
Lim Thong’s family members have said he attended anti-government rallies and demonstrations every day for nearly three weeks in September and August until he disappeared.
He disappeared on the afternoon of Sept 10 during a slew of police crackdowns on demonstrations protesting the result of the July 26 election.
Lim Thong is one of 53 people the UN’s report listed as missing following the demonstrations.
The UN rights center is investigating how many of those people are still missing. “We basically don’t know. We are still investigating all these cases,” one UN rights worker said.
The rights worker said witnesses saw Lim Thong taken away by police on Sept 10, but information beyond that is sketchy.
The UN report said 24 killings “were part of a surge that coincided with the suppression of opposition protests by the security authorities.” However, the police have disputed that any disappearances or deaths were related to the demonstrations.
The UN report said that no “direct link” has been proven between the majority of the 24 killings and the protests.
However, in the only two cases where bodies were positively identified in the Oct 28 report, both victims reportedly had links to the demonstrations and one of them was brutally killed by police.