Gov’t Rejects US Criticism of Political Violence

The government defended itself against criticism from the US government that it is not taking cases of political violence seriously, saying on Sunday that it will do everything in its power to ensure that the upcoming general election is held in a free and fair manner.

On Friday, the US State De­part­ment released a statement that said at least 14 politicians and activists have been killed since the beginning of 2002, and that the government needs to step up efforts to bring perpetrators of those crimes to justice, according to news reports.

“We deplore such crimes and strongly urge the Cambodian government to take immediate steps to end this type of violence,” US State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher was quoted as saying Friday by Agence France-Presse.

The Ministry of Interior, however, said the US is working from biased reports.

“What Boucher has said is a partial assessment,” said General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, on Sun­day. “He should see with his own eyes and evaluate the situation.”

Khieu Sopheak said the government shares the concerns of the US regarding political and election-related violence, and welcomes any comments because it wants to ensure that the elections are free of violence and intimidation.

“We want the atmosphere of the upcoming elections to be free and fair,” he said.

Local human rights groups place the number of political officials and activists killed since the Feb 3 commune elections at around 10, including the killings of two CPP commune officials.

Meanwhile, the Kompong Speu provincial court summoned, and later released a military official who was questioned about the killing of a Sam Rainsy Party commune official.

On Thursday, the courts called Sao Sok, a low-ranking military official, to answer questions regarding the Nov 16 killing of Tit Keo Monyroath, the opposition party’s second deputy commune chief for Sambo commune, Samr­aong Tong district, a court official said Sunday.

Police had previously questioned and released Sao Sok for the killing of Tit Keo Monyroath. Authorities have now charged Him Vuthea, Tit Keo Mony­roath’s nephew, with accidentally shooting his uncle—a charge Him Vuthea has publicly confessed to.

Despite the confession, local human rights groups have continued to investigate the killing. Recently, Kompong Speu pro­vince Licadho official Son Ken was allegedly threatened with death, but it is unclear if the threat was related to the investigation, a Licadho official said on Sunday.


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