Popular Performer Gunned Down on Norodom Boulevard

Popular singer and television host Pov Panhapich is in critical condition after being shot by a gunman on Phnom Penh’s Norodom Boulevard the morning of Feb 23.

The 23-year-old was hit by two bullets, fired at close range, in the back of the neck and hip, said Daun Penh Deputy District Police Chief Yim Socheat.

Witnesses reported seeing the gunman, a youth in his 20s, fire at the singer from the back of a motorcycle from a distance of around 1 meter, Yim Socheat said. Pov Panhapich had parked her car and was walking to the ELT School when the gunman struck, he said.

A 19-year-old ELT student who witnessed the shooting said that a second motorcycle, carrying two other young men in their 20s, appeared to be providing protection for the first motorcycle carrying the gunman.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said the gunman’s only objective was to shoot Pov Panhapich and that robbery has been ruled out as a motive.

“They shot and left,” Touch Naruth said, adding that the 23-year-old was hit in the neck and stomach.

She was initially ta­ken to Calmette Hos­pital, but then transferred quickly by am­bulance to a hospital in Vietnam, Touch Na­ruth said.

Hundreds of the sing­er’s music industry colleagues, fans and ordinary people gathered at the Calmette Hospital on the day of the shooting in scenes reminiscent of the public outpouring of grief and revulsion following the fatal gun attack on Piseth Pilika in 1999.

Considered Cambodia’s best-loved movie actresses and most accomplished classical dancer, Piseth Pilika was gunned down at close range on a busy street corner near O’Russei Market.

No one has ever been arrested for her killing.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu So­pheak said Feb 23 that he had no information on the shooting of Pov Panhapich.

Khieu Sopheak also said he was unaware of the status of the investigations into the slaying of Piseth Pilika or high-profile attacks on two other female celebrities: Touch Srey Nich and Tat Marina.

In 2003 Touch Srey Nich was shot twice in the face and once in the neck by gunmen who also shot dead her mother. The 24-year-old was eventually given asylum in the US where she remains paralyzed from the neck down.

Karaoke video actress and singer Tat Marina was horribly disfigured in 1999 after being attacked with acid, allegedly by the jealous wife of a government official, police said at the time. She was also given asylum in the US.

No one has been arrested for either attack.

Interior Ministry Penal Police Chief Mok Chito said on Friday that special committees were investigating the Piseth Pilika and Touch Srey Nich cases, and that they hadn’t given up yet. He said he wasn’t aware of the status of the Tat Marina investigation.

Of the latest shooting of a female star, Mok Chito said he could not speculate on a motive.

“Police can’t just say things like journalists. The motive has to be clear, then we will say,” he added.

SRP Secretary-General Mu So­chua challenged the country’s top police official, National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, to catch Pov Panhapich’s attackers.

“Mister Hok Lundy should show whether on not he has the ability and the willingness [to solve the case],” she said.

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