Stung Treng provincial police arrested three men on Friday for their alleged involvement in the killing of a human rights activist in his home in Sesan district, the province’s police chief Nguon Koeurn said.
Seng Sarorn, 45, an Adhoc activist and forestry and fishery community chief, was shot dead at his home in Sre Kor commune at around 9 pm on Wednesday.
Nguon Koeurn claimed that only one of the arrested suspects shot the human rights activist, and that the other two men were arrested for possession of the murder weapon, an AK-47 rifle, which they claimed they used for hunting.
Nguon Koeurn also claimed the motive behind the killing was a dispute Seng Sarorn had with the alleged shooter over a boat, though he declined to provide details.
Nguon Koeurn said that he could not remember the names of the suspects, but the alleged shooter has denied involvement.
“We questioned [the gunman], but he just denied it,” he added.
Nguon Koeurn said the police were able to apprehend the suspects because Seng Sarorn had shouted out the name of his alleged killer before he died.
However, Sarorn Seng, the victim’s son, said by telephone on Friday that his mother, who was present during the shooting, stated that her critically injured husband did not utter anyone’s name after being shot.
Chan Soveth, Adhoc’s chief of monitoring who is currently investigating the killing in Stung Treng, also said that he had spoken to the victim’s wife and she confirmed that did not name anyone before he died.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee issued a statement Friday condemning the killing, calling it a stark indicator that human rights violations in Cambodia are still a serious concern.
“Such killings threaten other human rights defenders and activists working to protect human rights in the country,” CHRAC wrote in its statement.
According to CHRAC, Seng Sarorn was involved in a June 18 protest demanding that the Sal Sophea Pheanich company, an agro-industry firm that has received government land concessions, give back state forestry land to villagers in his area.
CHRAC added in their statement that representatives of the agro-industry firm were present while police investigated the shooting on Wednesday evening.
“It has been reported that [Sal Sophea Pheanich] company interfered with the police investigation, for instance, by ordering the police to examine the body without the participation of a specialized medical doctor,” CHRAC added.
Police chief Nguon Koeurn confirmed that representatives of the land concession company were present at the murder scene, but only out of curiosity.
The firm could not be contacted for comment on Friday.
(Additional reporting by James Welsh.)