Sam Rainsy Restates Murder Was Political

After traveling to Kompong Cham on Monday to visit the wife of a party activist shot to death last week, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he still believes the killing was political, despite the wife’s assertions her husband was shot over a land dispute.

Chim Chhuon was to serve as the party’s candidate in upcoming communal elections, Sam Rainsy said. “The local authorities know this and they want to wreck our structure,” he said.

Sam Rainsy acknowledged that he does not have firm evidence to support the claim of a political killing.

Investigators from the human rights group Adhoc in Kompong Cham are still looking into the case and will have a preliminary report today, according to Chan Soveth, the group’s head of monitoring. Another Adhoc official said early findings indicate the murder was spurred by the land dispute and not by Chim Chhuon’s political activities.

Provincial officials, including the governor, deputy governor and police chief met for several hours Monday to discuss the case, but did not have any new details to release about the investigation or the suspect’s identity. They have said repeatedly that the murder was not political.

Chim Chhuon and his 7-year-old daughter were shot to death Thursday evening while sleeping next to their water pump, several hundred meters from their home in Toul Bey village. Chim Chhuon’s wife, Seng Sokhom, was wounded in the attack, but escaped along with the couple’s 10-year-old daughter.

The Sam Rainsy Party immediately issued a press release calling the killing an assassination. The party’s claims were aired in reports by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

Seng Sokhom maintains the shooting stemmed from a dispute over a water canal. Her husband and a neighbor had argued several times over who had the right to pump water from the canal, she said.

Sam Rainsy said Seng Sok­hom refused to give him the shooter’s name. “She said: ‘What if they come to kill me too,’” he said.

Sam Rainsy said he learned the assailant is a member of the local militia. “This is why I have asked for the dismantling of the militia,” Sam Rainsy said. “It is used only to terrorize and kill civilians. Not only is it useless, it’s harmful.”

Seng Sokhom has acknowledged her husband was involved in local politics. For a long time, she said, she did not know about her husband’s political activities. Just before the 1998 national elections, she saw her husband passing out leaflets in the area promoting the Neutral Democratic Party of Cambodia.

She does not know if her husband was a member of the Sam Rainsy Party, but she said Chim Chhuon sometimes walked through the village with a member of the prominent opposition party. “My husband never revealed to me his political party,” she said Sunday lying on the floor of her house recuperating from a thigh wound.







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