Mob Killings Down Nationally, Up in Capital

Despite a nationwide decrease, mob killings are on the rise in Phnom Penh and nearby Kandal province, according to reports from police and local human rights groups.

More than a dozen extrajudicial killings occurred in Phnom Penh last year, said Chan Soveth, a mon­itor with the human rights group Adhoc, while 102 such kill­ings were recorded in the prov­inces.

Though killings in the prov­inces appear to be declining, Chan Soveth said a disturbing num­ber of cases involve violence by local officials against victims supporting communal election candidates.

“There was a lot of killing that was politically motivated,” Chan So­veth said. Opposition party lead­er Sam Rainsy routinely re­ports incidents of violence against party members he says are commune election candidates. Also, a Funcinpec candidate and his wife were fatally shot earlier this year. The government, however, has down-played election-related violence in the countryside, instead dismissing the deaths as “personal disputes.”

Observers say it is often hard to differentiate between political and personal killings, making the track­ing of election-related violence difficuly and subject to interpretation.

Extrajudical killings in Phnom Penh and the surrounding suburbs are easier to explain, Chan Soveth said, but still represent an alarming trend toward mob violence. Victims in the city are most­­ly suspected thieves caught by residents who, with a growing distrust of Cam­bodia’s legal system, decide to take justice into their own hands.

Phnom Penh Governor and Chief Municipal Prosecutor Uk Sa­­vuth acknowledged last week that there are weaknesses in the judiciary that could encourage mob violence.

“Previously the court did not do its job well. Nearly all the people in Phnom Penh lost their faith in the court system,” Chea Sophara said.

But tentative legal reforms have at least laid the groundwork for the court’s being able to regain the public’s trust, Chan Soveth said, though there is still an inability to implement the law properly.

Pub­lic officials on all levels, in­cluding King Norodom Siha­nouk, spoke out last year against ex­trajudicial killings, which have been held up by the international community as a particularly brutal example of Cam­bodia’s failure to protect human rights.



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