As an international rights group condemned the Saturday grenade attack on a Son Sann party activist, Takeo authorities continued to insist the crime was not politically motivated.
At a press conference Wednesday, broadcast on Thursday by Apsara radio, a provincial police commissioner said the attack on Khieu Rama’s home, which left two people dead and three injured, stemmed from a dispute over a woman.
But New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a statement received Thursday, said the incident may have been politically motivated and called for a thorough investigation.
“Impunity for perpetrators of this kind of violence may deter Cambodians from taking an active role in opposition parties,” said Sidney Jones, the organization’s executive director.
According to the statement from Human Rights Watch, Khieu Rama, who was seriously injured in the blast, had expressed fears in March about his personal safety in the elections.
In an interview with the rights group before the attack, he said he was afraid he would be targeted for his political views under the guise of a robbery attempt.
Human Rights Watch also
called on donors to postpone election aid and pressure the government to prosecute clear cases of extrajudicial killings.
The UN Center for Human Rights has reported more than 50 suspicious killings of opposition members in the past six months, in addition to the slayings of more than 40 supporters of Prince Norodom Ranariddh after July’s clashes.
“Donors should not be supporting a flawed process as the least bad of several unsatisfactory options,” Jones stated.
Takeo officials said four people have been arrested in connection with the attack. On Tuesday, provincial Governor Sou Phearin said the attack was an act of revenge over a land dispute.
But the police commissioner, speaking at the press conference where one of the suspects was presented to the media, said the suspect, Khim Porn, had decided to kill Khieu Rama because Khieu Rama had previously threatened to shoot Khim Porn.
“I would like to tell journalists that the event was not political, but a personal dispute,” Khim Porn said. “What [the newspapers] have reported is not true.”
Khim Porn said his nephew, a soldier, had left two grenades in his home during his last visit. “I was scared I would be killed by [Khieu Rama],” Khim Porn said, “so I killed him first.”
The police commissioner said the two had a dispute in 1993, which was not detailed. More recently, he said, they both fell in love with the same woman.
Party President Son Soubert called the assertion “ridiculous,” noting that Khieu Rama and the woman in question were both married, and that Khieu Rama is more than 30 years Khim Porn’s senior.
Son Soubert and other party members, who traveled to Kiri Vong district for the ceremony marking the seventh day of the death of Khieu Rama’s brother and sister, said they were told the attack was partly politically motivated but may have also been prompted by a land dispute between commune officials and Khieu Rama’s sister.