One day after Sam Rainsy Party activist Ti Van was fatally shot, police do not have a suspect in custody, but say they are pursuing a suspect. Both Prampi Makara district police Chief Yim Simony and friends and neighbors of the victim have identified the killer as army Major Som Sophi.
“I know the identity of the killer,” said Yim Simony. “I am asking the court for a warrant to arrest him, but I cannot say anything [about the motive] right now because we are still investigating.”
Sam Rainsy Party cabinet chief Phi Thach is convinced the motive was political. “From our side we do not need any investigation, because the killing is completely political,” he said.
Witnesses agree Ti Van was shot once in the chest after cheering for the Sam Rainsy Party at a Chinese New Year celebration. The witnesses agree Ti Van and Som Sophi had known each other for years, but they agree on little else.
Lim Marong, another Sam Rainsy Party activist, said a group of people had been drinking and eating together when an argument began about the commune elections. He said several people were praising the Sam Rainsy Party when Som Sophi, a CPP member, began to wave a gun at the group. Ti Van then stood up and shouted “Long live the Sam Rainsy Party,” after which Som Sophi allegedly shot once into the air and once at Ti Van, hitting him in the chest.
Another witness, who asked not to be identified, said the assailant wasn’t at the party, but shot the victim from outside the house.
A third witness, Heng Lim, said Som Sophi fired the first shot into the air and then dropped the gun, which went off again and struck Ti Van in the chest.
The victim’s wife, Van Tha, said there was only one eyewitness to the shooting. That person was unavailable for comment. (Additional reporting by Molly Ball)