Police, UN Disagree Over Activist’s Death

The police chief of Kandal province said Wednesday that his preliminary investigation on the death of a Funcinpec activist indicated suicide, while a UN statement released the same day called the case a “killing.”

Mom Samean said containers with pesticide near the body and Thong Sophal’s allegedly gloomy demeanor in the days leading up to his disappearance led police to believe the man took his own life by drinking the poison.

“My guess is that this is not a politically motivated killing be­cause he was a low-level Funcin­pec supporter….They would never kill a man in such a low position,” Mom Samean said.

Kandal police found the body of 45-year-old Thong Sophal dumped near a canal on Sunday morning after investigating his disappearance.

A human rights worker said Sunday the flesh had been strip­ped off his legs, that his fingers and left ear were cut off and he had received a massive blow to the left side of his head.

A statement released Wednes­day from Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for hu­man Rights in Cambodia, listed the death as a “killing” defined in the report as a “confirmed in­tentional death.”

The human rights official had said Sunday that the brutal torturing Thong Sophal received was the cause of death. Funcinpec officials have labeled the death as politically motivated.

A human rights officer on Wednes­day reported that Thong Sophal had switched allegiances from the CPP to Funcinpec on June 3.

Thong Sophal had served as a registration observer for Funcin­pec, the rights worker said.

When asked about the state of the body, Mom Samean said that the missing flesh, fingers and ear was the work of insects or animals. He noted that the body had been left near a canal for several days and it was badly decomposed.

Mom Samean reported Thong Sophal’s wife as saying that he had been depressed in the days leading up to his disappearance due to problems relating to the recent engagement of one of his daughters.

However, the rights official said Thong Sophal had been questioned by the chief of a nearby village during the voter registration period—about one week before he disappeared—and was shaken up by the meeting. The nature of the questions are unclear, the rights official said.

Svay Sitha, of the recently formed Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said Tuesday that the committee is investigating the case separately and that it has received the Kandal police de­part­ment’s preliminary report. He declined to comment until the inquiry is complete.

The committee members, who were appointed by the two prime ministers in early June, have yet to label any of the killings they are investigating as politically motivated.




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