Trial of Accused Political Killers Concludes

kompong cham – The widow of a Funcinpec commune candidate shot to death in November identified her husband’s killer in open court Thursday during the first day of the trial of two policemen and a former militia member accused of killing the Funcinpec candidate and a Sam Rainsy Party activist.

Soy Tha, the widow of Funcin­pec commune candidate Thon Phally, was just one of 16 people who testified at the Kompong Cham courthouse Thursday in a case considered by Human Rights Watch and the UN to be a key test for justice in Cambodia.

“I woke my husband up after I heard a bicycle fall to the ground under the house. When he woke up and sat up, someone [shone a flashlight] in his face and another man shot him,” Soy Tha, 33, said Thursday. “I could see by the light of the torch who shot my husband.”

Soy Tha immediately pointed to accused killer Eang Veth when Kompong Cham provincial court Judge Khieu San asked her to identify her husband’s killer. Eang Veth is one of three ac­cused standing trial for the killing of her husband and Sam Rainsy Party activist Phuong Sophat on Nov 14 in Srolop commune, Tbong Khmum district.

Both victims were killed ap­proximately two hours apart.

“I heard three shots, and my husband was shot two times,” she said. “After the killing, the [shooters] fled into a rice paddy.” She added that the local authorities did not investigate the killing and never took her statement.

Soy Tha was the only person Thur­sday who testified to actually witnessing the killing. Several witnesses, including Thon Phally’s siblings and daughter, testified to seeing some men dressed in baggy military pants and heavy coats driving on motorcycles in the area on the night of the killing. But none of them could positively identify the suspects.

Tun Khea, the younger brother of Thon Phally, said he was standing in front of his house the night of the killing when he saw two men identified as “Veth” and “Seth,” later identified as Eang Veth and Lang Sarin, another man accused in the killings.

Tun Khea testified that Seth asked Veth “are you ready with your guns?” Tun Khea said he did not see either man shoot Thon Phally.

The lack of positive identification fueled speculation in the courtroom Thursday that the authorities might have arrested and charged the wrong suspects.

This speculation was increased during the trial when the three accused—Eang Veth, Lang Sarin and Yun Samoeun—testified in their defense. Each denied taking part in the killing but admitted to driving around the area at the time of the killing with two other suspects, Yun Tony, a military official, and Chan Ratha deputy commander of submilitary region of Tbong Khmum district.

Throughout their testimony, the three men described both Yun Tony and Chan Ratha as being armed and leading them through Srolop commune. They each stopped short, however, of accusing Yun Tony and Chan Ratha of killing the victims.

Although the court issued warrants for both Yun Tony and Chan Ratha immediately after the killings, they have not made an arrest. Tith Sothy, director of the Kompong Cham court, said Thursday that both men fled the area and have not been seen since November.

Also, two family members and various supporters of the defendants provided alibis for them Thursday, saying they were either at home or at work at the time of the killings.

A human rights observer said after the trial that court officials were conducting the trial well.

Although Judge Khieu San finished hearing testimony Thurs­day, he said he would delay issuing a verdict until Friday morning.

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