ansaong village, Prey Veng province – Police here have arrested two suspects in an alleged political killing here, claiming the slaying was the result of a long-simmering family dispute.
But family members on Wednesday disputed the police version of events and said they were not aware of any family conflicts.
Phon Phoun, 32, a political activist, was gunned down June 14 in this quiet village 20 km north of the Vietnamese border.
Funcinpec has charged that this death and another execution-style slaying on the same night, both in Kompong Trabek district, were meant to intimidate their party’s grassroots activities.
Phon Phoun had been a member of Funcinpec since 1992 but apparently joined the Reastr Niyum party in the weeks before his death.
In the second slaying, the wife of a second deputy district Funcinpec official was slain by unidentified gunmen.
Police on Monday arrested Phon Phoun’s nephew, Seng Yorn, 25, and Pin Saveth, 45, the CPP deputy chief of commune, on charges of murder, said Ros Vanna, chief of the criminal investigation department for Prey Veng police.
Ros Vanna blamed the killing on a long-running family dispute over money being sent by relatives living in Australia. Phon Phoun was accused of not sharing the funds, he said.
On June 13, he added, the dispute boiled over when Seng Yorn accused Phon Phoun of “making the girl next door not love him.”
The next evening, just before
8 pm, two men entered Phon Phoun’s stilted house, pointed a gun at him and asked for a small amount of gold, which he denied having. In front of Phon Phoun’s wife, 2-month old son and mother-in-law, the men ordered him to lie down, tied his hands behind his back and marched him outside.
Moments later, three gunshots rang out throughout the village.
Ros Vanna said he arrested the two men on the basis of testimony from Phon Phoun’s wife, Chhuk Hieng, that she recognized their faces when they entered the house. But Phon Phoun’s mother-in-law, Khem Seng, 74, said the men’s faces were wrapped in kramas and neither she nor her daughter knew who the men were.
Khem Seng, interviewed on the steps outside the family house, then showed how the kramas were wrapped around the men’s faces, explaining that only a slit was left for their eyes.
Chhuk Hieng has fled the area and taken refuge with family members in Kandal province, family members and police said.
In addition, Khem Seng and other family members living in the village said there were no family disputes that would have led to his murder. Phon Phoun kept his political allegiances a secret—the lesson he learned from heavy intimidation in 1993 as a member of Funcinpec, family members said.
In May, Phon Phoun switched allegiances from Funcinpec to Reastr Niyum, according to police and the deputy district party chief. They called him a “supporter” and not an activist.
Phon Phoun joined a party membership drive two days before his death, signing up 136 Reastr Niyum members, according to a report from the human rights group Adhoc and a new government rights committee.
Nou Pim, district chief of Reastr Niyum, was cited by Adhoc as saying the CPP commune chief had a heated argument with party members and Phon Phoun over the membership drive.