A Sam Rainsy Party member was shot to death in Siem Reap province last week in what party officials allege is the second political murder in two days in the province.
However, the provincial police chief said Sunday that both victims were CPP members—and that both were suspected witches.
Lith Preah, 60, was shot dead July 16 as she lay sleeping in her house in Sangvauy commune, Chikreng district, a Sam Rainsy Party statement said.
Nhiek Sivorn, 45, was killed Tuesday when gunmen entered his house and shot him.
“Lith [Preah] was an active SRP member who officially joined on July 7,” the statement quoted provincial party chairman Touch Sarou as saying. “She was very popular, had a soft character and no disputes with anyone. This can only be a political assassination.”
The party provided photocopies of a Sam Rainsy Party membership card with Lith Preah’s name and a photo of an elderly woman.
However, Siem Reap Deputy Chief of Police Tann Chay said the woman whose death he was investigating was a CPP member, as was her entire family.
Contacted at home Sunday, Tann Chay said he could not remember the name of the victim but added that she was 60 years old and shot once in the head while sleeping.
He said two suspects are sought in the killing, and preliminary investigations indicated the shooting was not political.
“People say that she is a witch,” Tann Chay said, when asked about a possible motive.
He also said that Nhiek Sivorn, whom the Sam Rainsy Party claims as a martyred party member, was active in the CPP. Nhiek Sivorn was alleged to be a witch and also had a land dispute with another person, according to Tann Chay.
“So that is why people killed him. So this is not a political reason,” Tann Chay said, adding that Nhiek Sivorn was a CPP group leader.
The provincial police official implied that opposition parties have been trying to make run-of-the-mill murders look political so they can gain support.
“Sam Rainsy likes it very much when people die so he can blame people,” he said.
The Sam Rainsy Party released a statement Friday calling it “an insult” to claim that Nhiek Sivorn and another slain SRP member, Hong Hay, were actually CPP activists. The statement said the claims were a new tactic by the dominant party to cover up political murders.
“It has been well-established by the UN and others that the CPP regularly bribes or forces people to become members,” the statement said, noting that the law on political parties allows people to change membership by joining a new party.
The Sam Rainsy Party added that given the CPP’s aggressive membership drive, “It is certainly possible that Hong Hay and Nhiek Sivorn were CPP members at one time. That would be one more reason for the ruling party to kill them: to make an example of those who shift their loyalty to the opposition.”
The death of Lith Preah brings to 20 the number of killings claimed to be political by one party or another since mid-May, according to UN figures and recent reports.