A government committee established to investigate the murder of Funcinpec Party commune election candidate Pak Chhoeun remains stumped by conflicting stories and hesitant witnesses, according to a member of the panel.
The June 3 incident in which Pak Chhoeun and his wife, Doung Mean, were fatally shot as they slept was initially branded a political killing aimed at discouraging political opposition to Lboeuk commune chief Im Nan (CPP). But both government investigators and rights workers have downplayed that theory following days of inconclusive interviews.
“We have not found anything yet,” said committee member Kem Sokha (Fun), whose Senate team of CPP and Funcinpec investigators returned Tuesday from Kampot province after speaking with area residents.
In the days following the murders, Kem Sokha indicated the couple was killed for political reasons. One human rights worker suggested Wednesday that Kem Sokha’s reversal revealed a fractured committee, with CPP members trying to avoid having to admit one of their own party members was responsible for intimidating opposition party activists.
“They should have found a conclusion instead of trying to have their own stories,” the rights worker said. But the rights worker also admitted his own difficulties in investigating the murders, saying he was “not able to make any conclusions at this time.”
If found to be politically motivated, Pak Chhoeun’s death will be the first in what election monitors and rights workers fear will be a string of election-related murders, as previously powerless citizens try to dislodge commune chiefs through the ballot box.
Fellow Funcinpec commune candidates in Lboeuk commune already have expressed fear of more violence. Kem Sokha said he had no reports that commune residents were being further intimidated, but he did admit they were, in many cases, too afraid to speak with investigators.
“That area is very far from anything. If you have some problem no one can help you,” he said.
But another rights worker on Wednesday cautioned against prematurely tying Pak Chhoeun’s death to the elections, which are tentatively scheduled for late next year.
“Motive is a very hard thing to find in Cambodian murders,” the rights worker said, explaining that Pak Chhoeun’s death could be attributed to any number of complex reasons.