Trial Starting in Killing of Opposition Activist

Three men charged with the murder of prospective Sam Rainsy Party commune council candidate Touch Voeun are scheduled to face trial today in Siem Reap, officials said.

Sut Sak, 22, Chhao Chhoeun, 43, and Kut Koun, 39 are accused of shooting Touch Voeun, 54, as he slept in his house in Tapeum village, Kompong Kdei commune on Aug 23.

He was shot at 11 pm and died just after midnight, Sam Rainsy Party officials said.

According to Sam Rainsy, Touch Voeun had been an active member of the Sam Rainsy Party since 1996 and a popular Bud­dhist holy man.

Siem Reap authorities were downplaying the political nature of the homicide, Sam Rainsy said.

“Just after the killing, the police accused Touch Voeun of being a sorcerer, but at least 200 people in the village said he was not a sorcerer,” he said, calling the shoot­ing “a pre-emptive killing.”

“The killers always target the most popular candidates,” the opposition leader said.

Human rights workers say they are concerned the defendants were coerced into confessing.

However, authorities have been able to develop “more evidence since the arrest because of they confessed and told us that they did it,” Siem Reap provincial Pros­ecutor So Vat said.

Sam Rainsy questioned wheth­er the three suspects were the killers.

“They have a fake culprit—the authorities will often pay one suspect money and then promise that they will release them from jail after serving a few months. Meanwhile the culprit is still free,” he said.

The UN is observing the case and has listed among 15 cases it says involve the victims’ politics.

The killing was the result of a personal dispute in the village, So Vat said, and part of the legacy of violence in the country.

“Because of the long history of war in Cambodia there is a brutal culture in Cambodian society, so when [people] have a dispute they kill each other,” he said.

(Ad­ditional reporting by David Ki­hara)


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