More than 3,700 Cambodian-Americans have signed a petition to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, asking the world body to assign a special investigator to probe killings and attempted killings in their homeland.
“Although Cambodia appears to have become a more stable nation over the past few years, she has become so through the practice of fear and intimidation rather than through the promotion of freedom and justice,” the letter read.
“Instead of embracing democracy, she has taken a step backward toward authoritarian rule as those in power work to consolidate their position through corruption and cowardly acts of violence against their opponents.”
The petition, organized by the Cambodia American Association, criticized the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen for failing to adequately investigate “a series of politically motivated killings.”
It also called the slaying of Chea Vichea, former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers for the Kingdom of Cambodia, the latest tragedy in a “recent and disconcerting pattern of violence.”
The letter listed the killings of Buddhist monk Sam Bunthoeun, Funcinpec adviser Om Radsady and royalist radio reporter Chuor Chetharith, among other attacks, as evidence of the dangers faced by proponents of democracy and human rights.
“The people of Cambodia are in pressing need of your assistance to protect their fledgling democracy. We must not let the history of Khmer Rouge oppression repeat itself,” the letter read.
An Nan, legal supervisor for the Cambodia Labor Organization, said Tuesday he would support UN involvement in the police investigation of Chea Vichea’s killing.
“I believe that if the United Nations conducted the investigation into the killing of Chea Vichea, the true killers and the mastermind would be found,” he said.
“The government has no will to arrest the real killers. The recently confessed [suspects] are the fake killers.”
An Nan alleged that involvement of high-ranking officials in the attack could be preventing its proper investigation.
Chea Mony, brother of the slain union leader, also urged the UN to pressure Hun Sen’s administration.
The UN secretary-general “must not think this is a small case. He should help conduct the investigation,” Chea Mony said.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Tuesday that the authorities are still investigating Chea Vichea’s death and would welcome UN assistance.
“Right now, we have arrested the killers, but people still don’t believe they are the real killers. I don’t know what to do,” Khieu Sopheak said.
He said that the Interior Ministry is collaborating with the US Embassy on the Chea Vichea case, but declined to elaborate.
“We are working together, but they told me not to talk,” Khieu Sopheak said.
The US Embassy has repeatedly denied participating in the investigation.
Twenty members of the US Congress have also expressed their “extreme concern” over the death of Chea Vichea.
In letter written to Hun Sen, dated Feb 23, the 20 representatives noted that police had arrested suspects in the killing.
Nonetheless, they urged the prime minister “to continue your investigation so that the perpetrators are brought to justice, as well as ensure the future safety of other political and labor leaders.”
The letter also asked Hun Sen to investigate possible connections between the death of Chea Vichea and the killings of other Sam Rainsy Party activists “and ensure that political expression in your country is not fettered by the threat of violence.”
(Additional reporting by Porter Barron)