US Envoy Condemns Killing of Journalist

The US ambassador urged the gov­ernment to seek justice in a re­cent spate of attacks on Fun­cinpec and Sam Rainsy Party sup­porters dur­ing a visit Tuesday to Ta Prohm radio station, where a pro-Funcinpec journalist was slain Sat­urday morning.

“We condemn violence of every form, and we urge the government to take aggressive action to investigate and to bring perpetrators of violence to justice,” Am­bas­sador Charles Ray told reporters outside the station.

Ray said the purpose of his visit was to offer condolences to the co-workers and family members of Chuor Chetharith. The 37-year-old Ta Prohm radio editor and re­port­er was shot dead outside the station in what royalist and opposition parties are calling a politically motivated murder.

Chuor Chetharith’s death follows a string of attacks on supporters and members of the two parties. In many of the cases, no ar­rests have been made.

“The government appears to be poised to solve the political deadlock from the July election, and we urge them to continue to do so in a peaceful and constitutional manner,” Ray said.

During the 40-minute visit, the ambassador met with Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou, Funcin­pec Minister of Wo­men’s Affairs Mu Sochua, and Sam Rainsy Par­ty spokesman Ung Bun-Ang.

Ung Bun-Ang said he asked Ray to talk to Prime Min­ister Hun Sen about the recent attacks but re­­­ceived no firm as­­surances.

After Sat­­ur­­day’s slay­ing, the In­­ter­ior Min­istry or­dered a committee composed of CPP and Fun­cin­pec ministry officials and mu­nic­ipal police to in­vestigate the case.

Poly Da, Funcinpec undersecretary of state for the Interior Minis­try and chief of the committee, de­clined to comment on the investigation Monday. Ministry spokes­man Khieu Sopheak also declined to comment.

At Funcinpec headquarters on Mon­day, the Funcinpec Women’s Movement condemned a separate kil­ling of one of its party’s female activists. Dos Hut, 47, was shot to death early Sunday morning in Kam­­pot province’s Chum­kiri district. Officials from the Women’s Move­ment said the incident was po­lit­ically motivated and not related to a land dispute, as police had earlier stated.

Ky Lum Ang, deputy secretary-gen­eral of the group, said Dos Hut was targeted because she was well-known in the district for promoting the party.

The victim’s first husband— also a Funcinpec supporter—was murdered in 1994, officials from the group add­ed. They said the case re­mains un­­solved.

Chumkiri district Police Chief Sao Phea on Tues­­­­­day de­nied that Dos Hut’s death was linked to pol­i­tics. It stemmed from disputes between the families of the victim and the sus­pect, he said

He said Sim Thy, a district po­lice officer, is wanted as a suspect, but no arrests have been made.

Meanwhile, King Norodom Si­ha­­nouk lamented the country’s plight in a letter posted on his Web site Monday, after the cancelation of a tripartite meeting meant to defuse the political deadlock.

“The current political crisis will force the second Khmer King­dom more profoundly further into the abyss of disgrace,” the King wrote. “[O]ur very serious and irrever­sible national division will lead us all straight near hell, not only of dic­tatorship…but also fur­ther to the beginning of the end of Kampuchea itself.”

By Phann Ana

and Daniel Ten Kate

the cambodia daily

A document obtained from the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday revealed that Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed earlier this month to tax holders of the prestigious Okhna title—a title normally granted to those who contribute more than $100,000 to develop the country.

The document, written by Finance Minister Keat Chhon and signed Oct 3, proposed taxing Okhnas $10,000 a year for 15 years “in order to maintain the Okhna validity for life.” The proposed tax would be used for the Commune Fund to promote grassroots development.

“In case of Okhna’s slowness or if they do not pay the annual donation every year, they would automatically lose the Okhna title,” the proposal said. “There are about 200 Okhnas in the Kingdom of Cambodia at the present time so if each Okhna pays [$10,000] a year, we would collect [$2 million] for the Commune Fund.”

At the bottom of the document, the words “agree with the proposal” were written next to the premier’s signature and the handwritten date, Oct 9.

After the Council of Ministers meeting last week, Ngy Tayi, undersecretary of state at the Finance Ministry, told reporters that Hun Sen “made it very clear that the government has no policy to tax Okhnas.”

The about-face apparently came after a report Thursday in the Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia) exposing the proposed tax.

“The prime minister said there is no tax on Okhnas at all,” Ngy Tayi said Tuesday. “Maybe he changed his mind after the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper repeatedly reported on the tax.”

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday that Hun Sen never agreed with the Okhna tax.

“[Hun Sen] got the news [of the tax] from the newspaper,” Khieu Kanharith said. “At the Council of Ministers, he said that it is not right to tax Okhnas. He told the Ministry of Finance that the government must give thanks to people for giving money to develop the country.”

Khieu Kanharith said he had not seen the Okhna tax proposal signed by Hun Sen.

On Monday, Finance Minister Keat Chhon downplayed the proposed Okhna tax.

“It’s just an internal debate in the government,” he told reporters. “After the debate, we decided to veto [the tax].”

Upon hearing of the proposed tax last week, Okhnas expressed dismay.

“If I had known this condition I would not have accepted the title Okhna,” said Mong Reththy, a rubber trader. “It is a large amount.”

Soh Kong, president of Sokimex, said last week it would be “impolite” to tax the title.

“I am not a vegetable or other goods they can tax,” he said.


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