Re-igniting a three-year quest to the find the killers of Cambodia’s most famous classical dancer and film diva, Piseth Pilika, relatives of the slain starlet launched a Web site on Monday to draw attention to a case they believe is being covered up.
The Web site, which claims to have evidence that Piseth Pilika was assassinated because of an alleged love affair with a high- ranking government official, was followed this week by a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday from three opposition parliamentarians demanding answers about the killing.
Piseth Pilika’s sister said from Paris on Wednesday that the objective of the Web site, www.pisethpilika.org, was to keep her sister’s memory alive and present a diary and other documents that explain the reasons for her death.
“I want to show documents about [Piseth Pilika] to members of the public who were not able to see them before,” Sao Davina said by telephone.
“The police and the courts try to shut this case. But Cambodian people will not shut it because they want to know the truth,” she said.
“The suspects are so powerful, they stand behind [Cambodia’s] courts and police so justice cannot be found.”
Piseth Pilika was shot three times on a busy street corner in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 6, 1999. She died after losing a weeklong battle to survive as surgeons struggled to remove bullets lodged in her back and spine.
Her 7-year-old niece, Sao Davina’s daughter, was also shot in the daylight attack, and three years after, a bullet remains lodged near the young girl’s spine. It cannot be removed until she is an adult.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers Lon Phon, Yim Sovann and Cheam Channy called on Tuesday for Hun Sen “to defend Cambodia’s honor, especially during the ongoing Asean Summit meeting, by properly answering some questions related to the murder in 1999.”
The parliamentarians also asked Hun Sen to explain why he and his wife, Bun Rany, did not follow through with threats to sue the French magazine L’Express over an article published in 1999 that implicated Hun Sen in an affair with the actress, “whereas you have started—and won—a defamation suit against Le Figaro, another French publication, which has made much more trivial allegations.”
Soon after the L’Express article’s publication, Hun Sen’s office publicly branded the article a character assassination inspired by Cambodia’s opposition party leader, Sam Rainsy, whose sister-in-law worked for the magazine.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen and head of the government’s human rights committee, said on Wednesday he had not yet seen the parliamentarians’ letter because all government offices were closed for the Asean Summit.
“Nobody is working, only [the Sam Rainsy Party] are still working,” Om Yentieng said.
Om Yentieng said any decisions regarding legal action against L’Express were the responsibility of Hun Sen’s legal advisers.
“I am not [Hun Sen’s] lawyer. I believe that his lawyer knows his job better than we do,” he said.
No suspects have yet been identified, despite claims by the police that the work of a task force devoted to the Piseth Pilika case is continuing.
Teng Savong, deputy director-general of National Police and the man leading the investigation, said on Wednesday he was unaware of the Web site and declined to comment on his investigation.
More than 10,000 people attended the star’s funeral, one of the largest-attended ceremonies in recent Cambodian history.
Fearing further reprisals after the killing of Piseth Pilika, Sao Davina and eight other relatives fled Cambodia and have sought asylum in France.
Sao Davina said she does not fear a possible lawsuit stemming from the new Web site.
“I am not afraid. Because everything is true,” she said.