Self-Immolation Still Shrouded in Mystery

Nearly a week after Ouk Vorn set himself on fire near Prime Min­ister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh home, family and friends differ on his state of mind at the time of the incident, and the motive for his suicide remains a mystery.

Relatives on Tuesday portrayed the 64-year-old bicycle re­pairman as quiet and somber—a man who rarely shared his thoughts.

His wife, Sok Kimheang, de­scribed Ouk Vorn as mentally “confused,” and dismissed the idea he set himself on fire out of any political protest.

“He didn’t like any political par­ty. He was neutral,” Sok Kim­heang said. “I would never imagine he did that,” she said. “We all feel very sorry for him.”

Ouk Vorn’s grandson Yun Theara was also at a loss.

“Before he died, he did not share his sad feelings,” he said.

On Nov 17, Ouk Vorn kneeled in prayer in front of a shrine about 100 meters from Hun Sen’s house, witnesses said. He then doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight. He died hours later at Calmette Hospital.

Contrary to his family’s descriptions, friends said Ouk Vorn was a sharp critic of the government and a supporter of the opposition party.

Pen Sarann, a motorbike dealer whose shop was situated near his friend’s Tuol Kok district bicycle re­pair shop, denied Ouk Vorn had any mental problems.

“He was a wise man,” Pen

Sa­rann said.

“He liked Sam Rainsy,” Pen Sarann said, recalling that Ouk Vorn once became incensed when he jokingly praised the prime minister.

Chhon Thearom, a motorbike taxi driver who saw Ouk Vorn every day near his home in Tuk La’ak II commune, supported Pen Sarann’s account.

“He is not crazy. He is normal,” Chhon Thearom said. “Set­ting himself on fire like that is not normal at all be­cause it is a very painful act. He must have had a very big problem.”

Police said Wednesday they had no new details in the case.

“There is no improvement in our investigation. It is very dark,” said Thou Peou, deputy police chief of Tonle Bassac commune.

Though witnesses to the incident saw Ouk Vorn with a bag filled with documents, Thou Peou denied the victim had left behind any form of identification.

“He didn’t leave any documents,” Thou Peou said.



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