Khmer Journalist, Son, Shot Dead

As Cambodia's election campaign heats up, a journalist linked to the opposition is killed along with his son.
2008-07-12
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CAMBODIA, Phnom Penh : A woman prays in front of a portrait of killed journalist Khim Sambo during a mourning ceremony at a pagoda in Phnom Penh on July 12, 2008.
CAMBODIA, Phnom Penh : A woman prays in front of a portrait of killed journalist Khim Sambo during a mourning ceremony at a pagoda in Phnom Penh on July 12, 2008.
Photo: AFP

PHNOM PENH—Veteran Cambodian journalist and government critic Khim Sambo and his son were shot and killed by unknown gunmen in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh's police chief Touch Naruth said.

“Witnesses said it was over some sort of dispute, but we are still looking for the murderers,” Touch Naruth told the AFP news agency.

Khim Sambo, 47, was shot five times while driving near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, apparently by a single gunman who fled the scene. Khim Sambo’s son, Khat Sarin Pheata, 21 and a university student, was also shot through the heart in the attack and died in hospital, they said.

Both father and son had just left the Olympic Stadium gym. Khim Sambo and Khatsarin Sopheathea’s remains were taken to Svay Dangkum monastery and were to be cremated Sunday.

Khim Sambo was known as a vocal critic of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and particularly of his July 5, 1997 coup, during which Khim Sambo was forced into hiding.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy suggested that Khim Sambo was killed because of his opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen's government. “This is very painful to me...Violence has reared its head again,” he said.

“Those who have committed evil acts are always afraid of the truth. And if they have committed evil acts they do not want the truth exposed. So they kill the journalists.”

“I urge the Cambodian people to pass judgment July 27 since the highest court in Cambodia is the Cambodian people’s court,” he said, referring to national elections set for July 27.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith scrapped a campaign visit to Kg Cham. He returned to Phnom Penh and condemned the shooting.

“I will return [to Phnom Penh]...to inquire about the incident so that I can report to the Prime Minister, to see what it was all about,” he said.

“He only quotes what people told him. It doesn't mean he is wrong. Therefore, I am going back and I am scrapping the campaign program for tomorrow....I will inform the Prime Minister and seek the truth about what really happened.”

Khim Sambo had been working for the daily Khmer-language Moneakseka Khmer (Khmer Conscience), a newspaper allied to Sam Rainsy, since 1997. He covered social affairs rather than politics, the newspaper's publisher Dam Sith said.

Dam Sith was recently charged for printing allegations that Cambodia's foreign minister had ties to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The charge was later dropped.

Original reporting by RFA's Khmer service. Edited by Sam Borin. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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