KILLING OF CAMBODIAN JOURNALIST CONDEMNED


2003-10-20
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Killing sets back talks to form new government

The weekend murder of a Cambodian radio journalist�the first such killing in Cambodia since 1997�has drawn sharp condemnation from the United States and from Western groups working to protect journalists worldwide, RFA�s Khmer service reports.

�The United States calls on the Cambodian government to take effective action to investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. A culture of impunity must not be tolerated,� the State Department said of the Oct. 18 slaying of Chuor Chetharith, deputy editor at the Ta Prohm radio station in Phnom Penh.

�Such actions, including this cowardly murder, imperil the rights of all Cambodians and jeopardize progress toward a more peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Cambodia,� it said, urging the government to bring the killers to justice and take steps to ensure the security of all Cambodian journalists.

The Paris-based group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) also urged the Cambodian government to set up an immediate independent inquiry to find and punish those responsible. "If the government is to regain its credibility, it is vital to end the impunity enjoyed by those who kill journalists," RSF Secretary-General Robert M�nard said in a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the murder�adding that Ta Prohm is known for its critical reporting of Hun Sen, and that the station's director, Noranarith Anandayath, is an adviser to FUNCINPEC party chief Prince Norodom Ranaridhh.

"While the motives of Chetharith's murder are unclear, this brazen shooting sends a chilling message to journalists who dare to criticize Cambodia's government," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "We call on the Prime Minster Hun Sen to fully investigative Chuor Chetharith's murder, and to work to bring his killers to justice."

Chuor Chetharith, deputy editor of the FUNCINPEC Party�s Ta Prohm radio station in Phnom Penh, was gunned down at point-blank range at 8:15 a.m. Saturday on his way to work, witnesses told The Cambodia Daily .

King Sihanouk has subsequently canceled tripartite talks between Hun Sen�s Cambodian People�s Party (CPP) and the Alliance of Democrats (AoD)�a partnership between royalist FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party to unseat Hun Sen as premier.

The talks were slated for Monday to discuss a solution to forming a new coalition government, which is required by Hun Sen�s party because it failed to secure a two-thirds majority at the polls.

However, since Chuor Chetharith�s killing, AoD has refused to join the talks "because of the atmosphere of threat, menace, and warning" generated by the killing. #####

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