Sam Rainsy Party National Assembly member Yim Sokha was killed Monday in a traffic accident on Route 4 in Koh Kong province, party officials said.
Yim Sokha was a member of the assembly’s Commission for the Protection of Human Rights. He was traveling to Sihanoukville to meet friends and raise money for the commune election campaign, according to Mom Bunthan, an assistant to party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang.
Yim Sokha’s car overturned and went off the road near Stung Chral in Kompong Seila district at about 4:40 pm, officials said.
He was driving the car, and was accompanied by Lim Samay, a party member who works in the office of the senate secretariat, said party Chief of Cabinet Phi Thach. She was seriously injured and temporarily lost consciousness, according to Phi Thach.
Eng Chhay Eang said Yim Sokha was killed instantly. He said Lim Samay cannot remember the accident.
Eng Chhay Eang drove to the accident site Monday night to retrieve the body and will return to Phnom Penh today, Phi Thach said. A local party member was attempting to get more information about the accident from police, Eng Chhay Eang said.
Yim Sokha was in his late 30s and had represented Kandal province in the assembly since 1998. He leaves behind one son and one daughter.
Mom Bunthan described him as one of the party’s most popular parliament members, who often traveled outside of Phnom Penh to meet people and listen to their needs. He had spent the weekend campaigning in Kandal, Eng Chhay Eang said.
“I am extremely shocked to hear this bad news. I have lost such a good, close friend. This is also a loss for the people,” said Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Kim Suor Phirith.
Yim Sokha joined Funcinpec in 1993 and helped found the opposition Khmer Nation Party, which was renamed the Sam Rainsy Party in 1995. He initially served as deputy secretary-general and became the party’s secretary-general after the 1997 factional fighting. His older brother Yim Sovann is also a member of parliament and serves as the party’s treasurer.
In the mid-1990s, as an editor of the opposition Voice of Khmer Youth newspaper and an outspoken critic of the government, he used the name Chan Ratana.
He was jailed in 1996 after being convicted of defamation over a 1995 article about then co-prime ministers Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh. He was freed from Phnom Penh’s T3 prison after King Norodom Sihanouk granted him a royal amnesty. The conviction and detention received worldwide attention from Amnesty International and other human rights groups, which described him as a prisoner of conscience.
Yim Sokha received a medical degree from the University of Health Sciences and worked as a doctor before becoming a newspaper editor.
(Additional reporting by Matt Reed)