Trial of 2 Accused of Political Killing Begins

The trial of two men charged with the country’s only acknowledged political killing last year is scheduled to begin today in Kam­pot provincial court, court director Him Yee said .

Im Nan, former Lboeuk commune chief, and Rith Kha are accused of murder and hiding an illegal weapon in the June 3 shooting deaths of Funcinpec member Pak Chhoeun, 59, and his wife, Doung Mean, 57.

At least four men gunned down Pak Chhoeun and Doung Mean as they tended to rice in their fields in Lboeuk commune, Chhouk district. Both the victims and the accused lived in Lboeuk commune at the time of the killings.

Im Nan and Rith Kha are the only suspects that have thus far faced trial in the shootings. Police released a third man without charge after a raid that brought Im Nan and Rith Kha into custody.

Human rights groups and the US government, in its recent hu­man rights report, labeled the shootings political intimidation.

Pak Chhoeun was active in com­­­mune politics, and had been named to run for commune chief only months before his death.

Some human rights organizations and observers see the trial as an important bellwether for hu­man rights and political freedom as Cambodia prepares for the country’s first commune elections scheduled for early next year.

“I’m not aware of any other situation like this, where there has been an arrest, let alone charges, so it’s an important first step,” a Western diplomat said Sunday.

With Funcinpec and CPP working together on a joint statement con­demning political violence, the trial will help lend credibility to the Cambodian government and the commune election process, the diplomat said.

“It’s a positive step. I think that’s how the international committee sees it. It does send a good signal,” he said.




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