Killings Have Left Villagers Suspicious, Scared

o’reang-ou district, Kompong Cham province – The shooting death of a Sam Rainsy Party activist on Saturday, Chompou village’s second killing in recent weeks, has left many villagers saying they are afraid of their own neighbors.

Lach Kong, 42, was shot six times in the chest with an AK-47 rifle while he was sleeping beneath his house at around 7:30 pm, local officials and villagers said. Earlier, police had said he had been shot four times. He died instantly.

His death followed closely on the heels of the killing of Dutch Peach, a 47-year-old CPP supporter who was shot twice in the chest with an AK-47 on Dec 22, villagers said.

No arrests have been made in either case.

While Lach Kong’s death was proclaimed a politically motivated assassination by Sam Rainsy Party officials earlier this week, villagers here said they have their doubts.

“We don’t have any disputes or arguments with anybody, so I don’t know why,” said his wife, 42-year-old Ham Seng Hong.

Her husband was an active member of the opposition party, she said, and he often stayed away from villagers who support the CPP.

But, she said: “I’ve never heard him being criticized for being a Sam Rainsy Party member.”

Her husband’s cousin Nhiek Boeun however, had been in­volved in a long-standing feud with the family of Dutch Peach, stemming from the theft of 375 grams of gold and $200 from Nhiek Boeun’s house in Sep­tember 2002, she said.

She said Dutch Peach’s then-8-year-old son had been accused of stealing the gold and money.

But, she said, this is all she knows of the dispute.

During a funeral ceremony for her husband on Tuesday night, Ham Seng Hong and her neighbors said they heard a single gunshot fired from behind her house. They do not know who was responsible. Though no one was hurt, the gunshot has stoked the villagers’ fear.

“I’m afraid we will have more problems,” said Ngy Ol, 42, Ham Seng Hong’s neighbor.

Not far from Ham Seng Hong’s wooden house, Sdoeng Pai, 46, said she, too, is mourning the recent death of her husband.

Her husband, Dutch Peach, had been working in the rice fields the day he was killed, Sdoeng Pai said. She had re­turned home early, and around 8:30 pm she heard the fatal gunshots outside her house.

Sdoeng Pai said she suspects her neighbor Nhiek Boeun is behind her husband’s death. The two men were known to have heated arguments and Nhiek Boeun repeatedly threatened the lives of her family members, she said.

Though her husband was a CPP supporter and Nhiek Boeun supported the Norodom Chakra­pong Proloeung Khmer Party, their political leanings were rarely the source of their disputes, she said.

As Ham Seng Hong said, their relationship deteriorated when Sdoeng Pai and Dutch Peach’s son was accused of stealing gold and money, Sdoeng Pai said. She denied her son was involved in the theft.

She added that she had no idea what motivated the second slaying in the village.

“I don’t know about Lach Kong’s death. We never had problems with him,” she said. “Why would I want revenge on him?”

Sdoeng Pai said she wishes she and her four children could leave the village.

“I’m worried the killer will come back at nighttime. So, when the dark comes, I’m very worried and I stay in the house,” she said. “Living here is a terrible life.”

Across the road, 42-year-old Nou Phoeun, the wife of Nhiek Boeun, said her husband is missing. He fled on Dec 22, the night of Dutch Peach’s killing, leaving Nou Phoeun and their five children on their own. He has not been seen or heard from since, his wife said.

Though police said he is a suspect in Dutch Peach’s death, Nou Phoeun said: “How can I say if he is responsible or not? But, one side accused him of the killing.”

She said she also wants to leave the village in case her neighbors try to seek revenge.

“Everybody here is worried about their security,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kompong Cham provincial Police Chief Kong Sokhorn said Wednesday he dispatched police to seize illegal weapons in Chompou village this week.

“People still hide them from authorities. That’s why there are still killings,” he said.

“In O’Reang-ou district, killings always happen like this,” Kong Sokhorn said. He said did not suspect the latest killings had anything to do with politics. “When people have an argument, they open fire on each other.”

He said he did not know the rate of violent deaths in the area.

Kong Sokhorn said police are searching for Nhiek Boeun for questioning and are waiting for a warrant to arrest a second unnamed suspect, who police believe is still in Chompou village.

In the meantime, Ham Seng Hong said she’s not waiting around for police to arrest her husband’s killer. She said she will take everything she owns and move to nearby Chork village.

Though she has lived in Chompou village all her life, she said, “I don’t dare stay here.”

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