The bulk of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into the killing of journalist Khim Sambor and his son, Khat Sarinpheata, is over, police officials said Monday, but FBI sketches of the possible killers have not yet been released to the public.
Khim Sambor, a journalist for the opposition party affiliated newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, and his son, Khat Sarinpheata, a 21-year-old National University of Management student, were shot to death while driving on a busy Phnom Penh street July 11 by unidentified gunmen traveling on a motorcycle.
The US Embassy offered FBI assistance into the case July 14, and the Cambodian government accepted Aug 1. Since then, officials have been tight-lipped about progress in the high-profile double killing, which occurred less than three weeks prior to the national election.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said the FBI investigators went back to the US last week but left artists drawings of the possible shooters in the care of local investigators.
“We will broadcast them on the TV and in the media and distribute the sketched pictures to every province across Cambodia as soon as possible after we get approval from the national police and the Ministry of Interior,” Touch Naruth said.
Police Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, declined to comment on the status of the FBI sketches.
“The investigation is in progress, so please allow me to keep the results of the investigation private until it is finished,” Khieu Sopheak said Monday by telephone.
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said Monday that an FBI forensic artist spent about two weeks creating images of the suspects that were based on descriptions given by witnesses to the killings. Two other FBI investigators were also in Cambodia for about three weeks and have since left the country, he said.
“I can confirm the agents have gone home and the bulk of the investigation is over, but our local [legal attache] is still providing support if and when the national police need it,” Johnson said.
The double slaying is the second criminal investigation the US has assisted with in Cambodia; the first was in 1997 when FBI agents helped investigate the deadly grenade attack on an opposition-organized rally outside the National Assembly leaving about 16 people killed and more than 100 injured.
No suspects have ever been arrested for the 1997 grenade attack nor, critics claim, has the FBI released its full investigation into the bombing because of the political sensitivity of the findings.
Phnom Penh Deputy Municipal Police Chief Hy Prou said his officers cooperated with the FBI agents for about three weeks, but the result was “not yet fruitful.”
“We will still have meetings with the FBI to interview some more sources…. But we still have some obstacles with the victims’ family, who are now living abroad, so we lost some key parts of the investigation,” he added.