Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Tuesday that the recent killings of two Funcinpec political hopefuls and a Sam Rainsy Party candidate might not be directly linked to the CPP, but could still possibly be connected to the Feb 3 commune elections.
Speaking to reporters outside the Cambodiana Hotel, the prince avoided directly answering whether the killings of the three last weekend were politically motivated.
“I don’t want to say [the killings were politically motivated], because if it’s politically motivated, then that implies it’s the policy of the party. But this is happening at the local level,” he told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
“These are local elections,” the prince said. “Sometimes it could be an act of a candidate from the CPP or another party after a person foresees they are going to lose a career that they have had for years.”
The most recent killings began Thursday when Ngoun Chroun, a female Funcinpec supporter who hoped to be appointed village chief after the elections, was shot to death in Prey Tonle village, Prey Tonle commune, Banteay Meas district, Kampot province.
A Kampot province official said the provincial court gave Banteay Meas district police a warrant Tuesday to arrest a suspect in connection with the killing. The official said police hoped to arrest the suspect either Tuesday night or today.
On Friday, Funcinpec commune candidate Long Phon and her husband, Funcinpec election monitor Soun Kroeun, were shot to death in Kro Haung village, Chhouk I commune, Chhouk district, Kampot province. On Saturday, Sam Rainsy Party commune election candidate Touch Sean was killed in Doun Leb village, Kork Preang commune, in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Chrum district.
Provincial authorities have said that none of the killings were politically motivated. But officials from the Sam Rainsy Party said Monday the killings were related to the commune elections and Nan Sy, a Funcinpec lawmaker, also hinted Monday the killings could be related to the elections.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee For Free and Fair Elections, said that even if provincial authorities say the killings arise from personal disputes, he does not trust their reports.
He cited the June 3, 2000, killing of Funcinpec activist Pak Choeun, in which the Kampot province authorities’ report disagreed on many points with the reports of human rights groups. Kampot officials decided the killing stemmed from a personal dispute, while human rights observers said it was a political killing.
Mark Stevens, the European Union’s deputy chief election observer, said the EU’s monitoring teams in Kampot and Svay Rieng provinces are currently looking into the recent killings as well as all previous commune election-related killings in 2001.
“The death of any candidate during an election year is a very serious matter,” Stevens said.