Relatives Mourn Slain Environment Official

kien svay district, Kandal pro­­vince – Grief and confusion collided Friday, when family and friends of Environment Ministry official Phay Sopha held his funeral in Kbal Koh commune and tried to make sense of his killing.

“I don’t understand, I don’t know any reason for his death,” said his 63-year-old mother In Huon, as she wept into her white shawl.

Police on Wednesday discovered the 36-year-old official, bludgeoned and crammed into the trunk of his own car in the parking lot of Phnom Penh’s Sorya Shopping Center.

Phay Sopha had been working as a mapping official for Ratanakkiri province’s Virachey National Park, the location of a massive illegal logging operation discovered in 2004 and currently under investigation by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The park’s former director and three border police officials based there have been charged with taking bribes and destruction of the en­vironment relating to the case, but have not been apprehended.

Phay Sopha’s cousin, who identified himself as Rady, 46, and a second cousin, Chem Ratha, 38, said that the victim was contacted by tele­­phone on Sunday by a person who wanted to meet with him.

Rady claimed that Phay Sopha responded to the caller: “Yes Ex­cellency, I will be there,” but both cousins said they did not know the caller’s identity.

In Huon said that at around noon Friday, police officials took Phay Sopha’s wife Sun Chandara to Daun Penh district police office for questioning about the phone call.

Reporters visited the police office at about 4 pm, but an administrative official said Sun Chandara had been taken to Phnom Penh Municipal Po­­lice Headquarters.

Reached by telephone, Sun Chan­­­­dara declined comment on the call placed to her husband, and her questioning by po­lice, but said she had re­turned home. “I have no time to talk to the press,” she said.

Pol Piethey, deputy municipal po­lice chief, said police have discovered no motive for the official’s kill­ing. Asked about the phone call, he said that police had “not looked deeply into that point yet,” and de­clined to comment further.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopeak said he had no new information on the case.


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