There have been 40 suspected politically motivated killings in Cambodia in the first five months of this year, local human rights group Adhoc said Thursday, adding that the number is its largest caseload in four years.
Compared with 31 suspected political killings in all of 2003, the number of political activists killed between January and May 2004 was unusually high, said Ny Chakrya, Adhoc’s chief investigator.
Most of the killings this year are believed to have occurred at the hands of police, militia and RCAF soldiers, he added.
“These cases are not robbery or dispute cases. They were killed by local armed forces in the provinces and the Phnom Penh municipality,” he said. “It is the highest number of killings since 2000,” said Ny Chakrya, referring to the number of slain activists.
Only nine of the 40 cases resulted in arrest, he said. He did not say how many activists from each of the three main political parties were slain.
Ny Chakrya suggested the violence has been fueled by the prolonged political deadlock. “We see that when there is a political deadlock and turmoil in the country, more political activists are killed,” he said. “We are worried the number will increase as political parties disagree over power sharing in the new government.”
Khau Meng Hean, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, agreed the political deadlock was at least partly to blame.
Without a new, stable government in place, “bad people are taking this opportunity to kill people,” he said Thursday.
Khau Meng Hean blamed the small number of arrests on lack of police training.
“It does not mean police do not try hard to arrest perpetrators. They try, but they are not experts as police are in other countries,” Khau Meng Hean said.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said Thursday he was unaware of the number of political activists killed this year, but he said that proper investigations were carried out for all crimes, regardless of the victims’ political affiliations.