siem reap town – The only time Moeung Sen laughed was when she was told that police believe her husband was killed because he was a “witch.”
The rest of the time, her mouth was in a tight scowl as she recounted how and why she thinks her husband, Nhiek Vorn, was shot dead on July 14 for political reasons.
“He was not a witch. He did not know anything about black magic,” Moeung Sen, 47, said Friday in an interview at Sam Rainsy Party headquarters for Siem Reap province.
Instead, she said, it is likely that her husband was killed for recently joining the Sam Rainsy Party. The murder occurred in Sotr Nikom district in Siem Reap province, both of which have gained a reputation with the UN human rights center and the election watchdog Comfrel for acts of political intimidation.
Tann Chay, who is in charge of criminal investigations in Siem Reap province, confirmed Friday that police have concluded Nhiek Vorn’s killing was motivated by personal dispute for activities related to being a “witch” or a traditional medicine doctor. Two other murders here have been similarly characterized.
But opposition parties claim the three as among more than 20 election-related murders nationwide.
Nhiek Vorn, 48, who police are calling Nhiek Sivorn, was eating palm fruit in his home with his wife on the evening of July 14 when the couple heard their cattle rustle and dog bark, Moeung Sen recalled Friday.
Next, a gunshot rang out from beneath the raised house. Nhiek Vorn screamed, blood gushing from his upper thigh.
In the harried next moments a neighbor and Moeung Sen’s nephew heard the screams and rushed to the house to help. They strung a hammock between two bicycles and walked the heavily bleeding Nhiek Vorn to the hospital 3 km away.
It was too late. He died soon after arriving, Moeung Sen says. She attributes the murder to political motivation, saying they were threatened on three different occasions about a month before the murder.
That was about the time, she said, they had “secretly” joined the Sam Rainsy Party. Several times, the CPP village chief and the CPP cell leader came to their house, urging them not to join another party “because everyone around you is CPP.” She claimed they added: “Please be careful.”
She said she doesn’t know how they found out about their Sam Rainsy membership.
Her nephew, she said, saw two men including the village chief’s son rushing away from the scene of the murder. Her nephew did not see whether the two were armed.
Following the murder, she claimed, the CPP cell leader warned her, “Don’t tell anything to anybody about the killing.”
On Friday morning, she left Chikeak village, 35 km east of Siem Reap town in Sotr Nikom district, and came to Sam Rainsy Party headquarters to seek refuge. She left, she said, because she and her two daughters, aged 12 and 7, feared they would be shot like Nhiek Vorn. She won’t go back until after elections.
A Sam Rainsy Party member shook his head in disgust when Moeung Sen told the story she heard from villagers about why her husband was shot.
A fortune teller told the village chief’s son that Nhiek Vorn put a curse on his father-in-law who died recently of cancer, according to Moeung Sen.
Police have not arrested anyone in the death, Tann Chay said. It is unclear whether the village chief’s son is a suspect. “Right now, police have some leads,” he said. “An arrest will probably be made next week.”
Tann Chay and provincial election officials said Friday they have found only motives of revenge or personal dispute in about 10 murders they have investigated. No arrests have been made, Tann Chay said.
Pen Bunrith, the legal officer for the provincial election commission, said in an interview at his headquarters Friday, that his office has not had enough time to thoroughly investigate allegations of political intimidation. He acknowledged that “some” political intimidation might exist.
“In fact, some of the cases are not political at all, it is personal revenge or dispute,” Pen Bunrith said “But they coincide with the electoral campaign.”