Pursat Funcinpec Commune Candidate Shot

A Funcinpec commune election candidate was shot by an unknown assailant in his Sampov Meas home in Pursat province Sunday night, marking what could be the second commune election-related attack this week, officials said.

Funcinpec member Soeung Sem, 65, was fired at three times after the assailant entered his yard shortly after 9 pm. Soeung Sem was shot once as he opened his door, said Ty Kim Toc, third governor of Pursat province and Funcinpec’s provincial deputy chief. The bullet entered under Soeung Sem’s armpit and exited through his back.

Soeung Sem, who received medical attention in a Pursat provincial clinic, is recovering from his wound and is in good con­­dition, Ty Kim Toc said.

“I worry about this incident,” Ty Kim Toc said. “Soeung Sem is very popular. He never had any conflict with the people in his village.”

According to Pursat First Deputy Governor Khim Sela and human rights workers, the assailant entered Seoung Sem’s property after Soeung Sem’s son opened the gate to their home and allowed him inside. The suspect, who Soeung Sem did not know, called out and shot him with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Pursat police are investigating the shooting, Ty Kim Toc said.

Colonel Hang Sithon, the provincial police chief, said the shooting was over Soeung Sem’s role as a palm reader, not as a commune election candidate, the Associated Press reported.

“I regret that this has happen­ed to a Funcinpec member,“ said Khim Sela, also a Funcinpec member, who was in Phnom Penh at the time of the shooting. “It is not reasonable. Even if the shooting is not politically motivated, it causes a potential threat of intimidation and bad image for the voters and potential candidates.”

Soeung Sem, who joined Funcinpec in 1993 and has been active in politics in Koh Chum commune since then, was the second commune election candidate to be shot over the weekend. The first, Sam Rainsy Party activist Uch Horn, was shot dead in Kompong Speu on Saturday night.

Although neither incident has been officially declared a politically motivated act, human rights activists worry about the message these shootings will send to voters and candidates from the Sam Rainsy Party and Fun­cinpec.

“I think it is not only the commune candidates who are intimidated, but the people who support them after a party member is shot,” said Thun Saray, director of Adhoc and first representative from the election monitoring group Comfrel. “When people see a candidate they like shot or killed, then they will be afraid to vote because they too might be killed.”

Kek Galabru, founder of the human rights group Licadho, said a Funcinpec member called her Thursday morning to report the Soeung Sem shooting. Li­cadho, which has an office in Pursat province, is currently investigating the incident.

Like Thun Saray, she said she could not comment on whether this shooting was an overt political act by an opposing political party looking to intimidate a competing candidate.

But she said shootings or kill­ings of commune election candidates become political in nature because they ultimately intimidate other candidates from running.

“These incidents send the message that if you run, you will have the same destiny as [Uch Horn and Soeung Sem],” Kek Galabru said.

Kek Galabru, whose group Licadho is also investigating the Uch Horn killing, added that “in Cambodia, it is so easy to push a [non-political] person to kill a political party member and say it is personal. Most killings of political candidates are politically motivated.”

If Uch Horn’s slaying is recognized as political, it would be the first this year as the country nears the first elections in its 1,621 communes in February. There was only one confirmed political killing last year, when a Funcinpec rival was murdered by a former CPP commune official who was later arrested and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)


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