Authorities in Kompong Cham province have arrested two policemen who they say shot and killed both a Funcinpec commune candidate and Sam Rainsy Party activist in November, officials said.
The suspects, identified only as “Seth” and “Vet” by a court official, were arrested on March 5. The policemen are suspected of being part of a gang of five military and police officials in Kompong Cham province that killed Funcinpec commune candidate Thon Phally and Sam Rainsy Party activist Phuong Sophat Nov 14, UN election analyst Adrian Edwards said.
“There is evidence showing that the suspects were involved in the killing of the [two victims] and that the authorities are on the right track with this arrest,” Edwards said.
According to a Ministry of Interior official, the ministry conducted a ballistics test on the bullets recovered from the dead men’s bodies showing the same weapon had been used to kill both victims.
The victims were shot in the same Srolop commune less than two hours apart. In both cases, police denied a political motive for the killing. Authorities in Kompong Cham said Phuong Sophat was killed because he was involved in the rape and robbery of a woman on Aug 12, while Thon Phally was killed because he fought with a neighbor over land.
But rights officials have called both killings “politically motivated” and have included them in a list of 20 killings of candidates or activists during the commune council election period.
According to Edwards, the two policemen now in custody were part of the “flashlight gang”—a gang made up of three policemen and two military officials. The gang is suspected of killing both candidates, Edwards said.
Summonses and search warrants had been issued but not executed “apparently because suspects are protected from arrest by the military,” a UN report stated months ago.
Two military officials accused of being in the “flashlight gang” are still at large, Edwards said.
The Kompong Cham provincial court still has not charged either suspect with the killings. The only evidence the courts have against the suspects is a statement by Say Sitha, the wife of Thon Phally accusing the two policemen of shooting her husband, Kompong Cham province Judge Sim Khuch said. Both suspects currently detained told the court that they were not involved in the killings, Sim Khuch said.