More than 200 people gathered at Funcinpec headquarters in Phnom Penh early Monday to mourn Chuor Chetharith, the pro-Funcinpec radio journalist who was gunned down on Saturday.
Mourners bearing bouquets of white flowers and incense paid their last respects to Chuor Chetharith, whose wooden casket was displayed behind an altar and manned by two police honor guards.
Sitting in front of the altar, which was adorned with blue banners, candles and offerings of fruit, Chuor Chetharith’s wife and family members wept.
The 37-year-old Ta Prohm radio editor and reporter was gunned down in front of his workplace Saturday morning in what Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party say was a politically motivated attack.
The execution-style killing followed a warning by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week that Ta Prohm radio should stop broadcasting programs critical of his speeches.
“He didn’t have any arguments with anyone,” Chuor Chetharith’s wife, Chim Sochoeun, said. “I want the government to find the offender and prosecute seriously.”
Top Funcinpec officials, including Minister of Information Lu Laysreng; Pok Than, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education; and Women’s Affairs Minister Mu Sochua, also attended the ceremony.
“These are very grass-roots people here crying for justice, for the end to a leadership that cannot guarantee people their basic rights,” Mu Sochua said, gesturing toward the crowd.
“There is not the slightest hope from people that justice will be served for our colleague,” she said.
The murder of the journalist follows a series of attacks on Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party members and supporters. Many of the cases remain unsolved. Two other Funcinpec supporters were shot, one of them fatally, in separate attacks during the weekend.
Asked whether he believed Chuor Chetharith’s death would be properly investigated, Sau Phan, Funcinpec deputy director-general of the National Police, on Monday said: “I cannot assume that.”
Sau Phan said the Interior Ministry has ordered a 16-member committee, composed of interior and municipal police officials, to look into the case. Nine of the committee members belong to the CPP, while seven belong to Funcinpec, he said. They were scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss their findings.
Sau Phan also said that police have been posted to Ta Prohm and 90 FM radio stations, as well as Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s cabinet office.
After the ceremony at Funcinpec headquarters, mourners proceeded to Wat Ang Trakiet in Chaom Chau commune, Dangkao district, where the slain journalist was given a Chinese-style funeral and burial.
Several Sam Rainsy Party officials, including Senator Ou Bunlong, party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang and Spokesman Ung Bun-Ang attended the funeral.
On Monday morning, King Norodom Sihanouk canceled a meeting of the three main political parties after Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party declined to attend it, saying they would not bend to CPP intimidation following Chuor Chetharith’s death. The meeting, called by the King, was aimed at bringing all parties together to resolve the ongoing political deadlock.
King Sihanouk did not reschedule the meeting in his cancellation notice to the three parties Monday.
On Sunday, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said it was too early to determine the reason for the journalist’s murder and his death should not have scuttled the talks.