Rights Investigators Say Activist’s Killing ‘Likely’ Political

Human rights investigators believe it is “likely” that the killing of a Sam Rainsy Party activist Saturday in Kompong Thom was politically motivated.

Uk Sao, 46, was shot in the back with an AK-47 as he slept Saturday evening at his home in Kalmek village, Stung Sen district.

Uk Sao was the group chief for his neighborhood, responsible for about 20 families, said Chan Saveth of the NGO Adhoc. Formerly a member of the CPP, he joined the opposition party in July and worked in October as an observer during the three-day candidate registration period for the upcoming local elections.

“People loved him. He was very popular,” Chan Soveth said, suggesting rival politicians might have feared the charismatic victim would attract voters to the Sam Rainsy Party. “Maybe someone heard [Uk Sao] was working with Sam Rainsy Party, [and] they think Sam Rainsy Party will win the election.”

Uk Sao was a motodop and worked as a police informant. Police have said from the beginning that he was killed by criminals who were angry that he tipped police off to their activities.

Kim Ann, deputy police chief for the province, said Wednesday police had identified two suspects and were seeking a warrant to detain them. He refused to identify the suspects.

“The killing of Uk Sao was not politically motivated at all. It was a revenge,” Kim Ann said.

Chan Soveth said this explanation was plausible, but “our staff in Kompong Thom say [the killing] is likely to be political.”

Some aspects of the case remain mysterious. A few days before he died, Uk Sao borrowed $300 from a neighbor and told his sister to take care of his two children if anything should happen to him, Chan Soveth said. The Adhoc investigators don’t understand why he needed money or why he might have believed his life was in danger. The Adhoc investigation is continuing, Chan Soveth said.

Both Licadho and the UN human rights office are also investigating the case, but officials from both organizations said their investigators had not yet filed a report.

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