A UN human rights report updating alleged cases of political killings has slammed the authorities here for dismissing the murders as ordinary crimes without proper investigation.
The memorandum documents 49 additional killings since the 41 reported by the UN in August. It accompanied another report assessing the investigation of such crimes, which concluded that government efforts to solve the crimes lack “determination” and “sincerity of purpose.”
It was submitted to the government this month by the UN secretary-general’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg. It has yet to be released by the UN, but was reproduced by King Norodom Sihanouk in the latest edition of his monthly bulletin.
“While there have been no serious efforts to investigate most of these cases and to bring perpetrators to justice, police or government authorities have in many of them promptly concluded that they were ‘robberies,’ ‘personal disputes,’ or ‘acts of revenge,’” says the memorandum.
“The possibility that the killings and disappearances are political but have been arranged so as to suggest other motives must also be considered,” it states.
In its introduction, the memorandum points to various patterns that have emerged from the killings, suggesting individuals were targeted because of their political affiliations and actions.
Of the 49 cases, it notes, all but six were against Funcinpec members. In addition, “28 out of the 49 victims were police, military officers or soldiers affiliated or formerly affiliated with Funcinpec party,” the memorandum says.
“In 22 cases there are indications that the victims were suspected of being in contact with or supporting the armed opposition of General Nhiek Bun Chhay,” it states. “Among these 22, five, including four children, were killed because they were relatives of soldiers involved in that armed movement.”
One such high-profile case is that of Brigadier General Kim Sang, a senior Funcinpec police officer shot dead March 4 by men in police uniform. Shortly before his killing, the UN document says, Kim Sang asked former Funcinpec colleagues who had joined the resistance to stop calling him because he suspected his phone was being tapped, prompting him to fear for his safety.
In addition to the overwhelming number of victims with opposition allegiances, the memorandum also pointed to alleged discrepancies between evidence gathered by UN staff and the conclusions drawn by the authorities.
In one high-profile case, the Jan 27 killing of Khmer Nation Party activist Ourn Phourng and his 4-year-old daughter in Prey Veng province, the memorandum notes that Information Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith publicly stated that the murder was not political. He cited a police report giving the motive as “revenge.”
Other police reports received by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the motive was robbery, or revenge related to a dispute dating back to the Khmer Rouge era.
“This allegation is based on no evidence and made no sense to the family of the victim,” the memorandum asserts.
Another case documented in the report is that of the Sept 9 murder of Funcinpec policeman Bou Khan, who was killed by two passengers of a taxi he was driving along Route 5 out of Battambang town. The two assailants disappeared after the attack on a motorbike that had apparently been following the car.
“The police have concluded that the motive of the murder was robbery. This conclusion appears to be based on the testimony of one of the passengers, a rich gold seller in Maung Russei, who told police he was robbed of his bag containing 5.4 million riel,” the memorandum states.
“An independent investigation based on testimonies of the passengers of the taxi, including the gold seller, indicated that no one was robbed of any belongings or even body-searched. The victims’ wedding ring, the money in his pocket, and the car were not stolen.”
Government officials on Wednesday declined to comment on the report, referring all inquiries to government spokesman Khieu Kanharith and Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. Neither could be reached for comment.