An SRP activist was bludgeoned to death in Prey Veng province early Wednesday morning, in the latest of a series of violent attacks or murders of SRP members, officials said Friday.
Police say that 23-year-old Rin Borey was killed by a cousin after an argument over a fishing net. But the SRP says it believes police have arrested the wrong man, and that the killing was politically motivated.
“The offender confessed that he killed Rin Borey,” Kanh Chriech district police chief Chea Saroeun said. “It was not politically motivated,” he said, adding that the suspect will be sent to the provincial court today.
Sam Rainsy expressed concern about what he said was a growing number of politically motivated assaults against his party’s members.
“I inform my activists to be alert,” he said. “Before the election the political violence always increases.”
On Oct 20, a newly recruited police officer in Kompong Cham province’s Ponhea Krek district shot an SRP commune dead, according to police. Police say that Long Sopheak, a 22-year-old son of a CPP deputy district governor, shot Thoeng Thea, 27, in the head during a drunken row. But a local SRP official said the killing followed an argument that erupted when one of the suspect’s friends chided the victim for belonging to the SRP.
The suspect remains at large, Kompong Cham Provincial Police Chief Seng Sokhim said Thursday. He added that the killing was not politically motivated.
On Oct 11, the SRP filed a complaint with the Interior Minister demanding the arrest of a police officer in Prey Veng province, who the party claimed had beaten up one of its activists and two children.
The SRP claimed that Chhum Sri, 37, beat Kong Breach with a bamboo stick until it broke after hearing her discuss plans for a voter registration drive for the 2007 commune elections. He then threw Kong Breach and her 13-year-old daughter against a wall, and struck her 1-year-old nephew, the SRP alleged in its complaint.
Kompong Leav district police chief Thou Sokunthea said Thursday that the officer in question will not be punished as he only threw “small” rocks at Kong Breach because she was making too much noise.
“We don’t suspend him because we could not find his mistake yet,” Thou Sokunthea said.
On Aug 13, the SRP claimed that a gang hired to assault an SRP village representative in Prey Veng province’s Kamchay Mear district attacked two of its supporters with axes during a political meeting.
The ax attack was a case of mistaken identity, the SRP said at the time.
Police said in August that they had arrested one man and were seeking four more in relation to the attack. They also said that they did not believe the attack was politically motivated.
Prey Veng district police chief Nhem Sothy refused to comment on the case Thursday.
Government spokesman and CPP Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said it is typical for the SRP to make false claims of political skullduggery whenever any of its members happen to get beaten up or killed, regardless of what motivated the attacks.
“The SRP is afraid to lose face when they lose the election and they don’t want their party members to be disappointed. That’s why they [make] claims like that,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said police thoroughly investigate acts of violence against anyone, regardless of their political affiliations.
“We don’t care if it is CPP, Funcinpec or SRP,” he said. “We care about arresting the suspects. We are providing justice to the victims.”
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he did not know if the attacks were politically motivated. But he added that violent acts against SRP members have an uncanny tendency of increasing prior to elections.
“The habit of intimidation and violence, especially against the opposition, increases before the elections,” he said.