Authorities in Kompong Speu province have found no evidence against a soldier suspected of killing a Sam Rainsy Party commune official and will most likely release him soon, officials said Thursday.
Military police took the soldier, Sao Sok, into custody for questioning on Tuesday but have decided that he was not involved in the killing.
“There is no evidence to prove that he was involved in the killing,” said Men Siborn, military police commander of Kompong Speu province, on Thursday. “He is not a suspect.“
Sao Sok was initially one of the prime suspects in the killing of Sam Rainsy Party Second Deputy Commune Chief Tit Keo Monyroath, who was killed in Sambo commune, Samraong Tong district on Saturday night. Tit Keo Monyroath was shot to death twice by two men who ambushed him as he was driving to a wedding with his nephew, Him Vuthea.
A Licadho official said Thursday that Hum Vuthea was arrested by police Thursday afternoon.
The main evidence against Sao Sok was an AK-47 assault rifle found at Sao Sok’s house, which was believed to have been the weapon used in the killing. A Ministry of Interior ballistics test on the rifle deemed that it was not the weapon used in the killing, Men Siborn said.
A Ministry of Interior official could not confirm that the ballistics test has been completed, saying that the test on the rifle would be finished today.
The ministry official added that two more suspects have been identified, but the official would not release their names.
While the investigation continues, the Sam Rainsy Party must now place a new official in the vacant second deputy commune chief position.
According to the election law, a vacant commune position must be filled with an official from the same party to keep the original system of representation voted on in the Feb 3 commune elections, said a UN Development Program official who works on election issues. The party most often chooses the second candidate, or first reserve candidate, for the position, the official said.
The Ministry of Interior must then approve the new appointment, but according to the official this is “mostly a formality.”
So far, a total of 143 commune officials elected in February have either died or resigned from office, according to statistics from the Interior Ministry. The numbers show that seven commune chiefs, 36 deputy commune chiefs and 100 commune councilors have left office.
Most of the commune officials who resigned left the positions because it was a financial hardship, said Leng Vy, the director of the department of local administration at the Ministry of Interior. He said the ministry could not provide numbers showing which political parties the 143 former commune officials belonged to.
The Sam Rainsy Party will most likely appoint local party member Kor Lon to replace Tit Keo Monyroath as the second deputy commune chief of Sambo commune, said Ven Heoun, the Sam Rainsy Party chairman of Samraong Tong district.