Cambodian pop star in critical condition, mother dead after shooting


2003.10.21
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Attack is fifth against opposition supporter in four days

Listen to the original broadcast in Khmer

Tuch Sonnich Unknown gunmen opened fire early Tuesday on a Cambodian pop star publicly aligned with a royalist opposition group, in the fifth attack on FUNCINPEC Party backers in five days, RFA's Khmer service reports.

The attack killed Tuch Sonnich's mother and left the popular singer in critical condition at the Russian Hospital in Phnom Penh, FUNCINPEC sources said.

Officials said the attack occurred at approximately 11:20 a.m., when four men on motorcycles�two in civilian clothing and two in military uniform�approached Tuch Sonnich and shot her three times in the face. Tuch Sonnich had left her car to enter a flower shop while her mother waited inside the vehicle.

One of the gunmen then turned to Tuch Sonnich�s mother, Kem Nuon, 59, and shot her in the back, according to an eyewitness. Kem Nuon died soon after at Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh, while Tuch Sonnich remains in critical condition with a 50-50 chance of survival, FUNCINPEC officials said.

"We condemn violence in any form and we urge the [Cambodian] government to take aggressive action to investigate and bring the perpetrators involved to justice," U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Charles Ray told reporters on Tuesday . "The government appeared to be solving the political deadlock from the July elections and we urge them to continue to do so in a peaceful and constitutional manner."

Tuch Sonnich's mother, Kem Nuon, died shortly after being taken to hospital The shootings follow four other attacks on FUNCINPEC supporters since Friday and another attack on an activist aligned with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party. Both parties are working to unseat Prime Minister Hun Sen, leader of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

On Saturday, Oct. 18, the deputy editor of FUNCINPEC-affiliated radio station Ta Pruhm was shot dead by two gunmen on a motorcycle, and on Sunday a FUNCINPEC activist was killed in Kampot by a CPP-aligned police officer.

Last week Hun Sen publicly warned Ta Prohm to stop insulting him on the radio, saying FUNCINPEC should control its radio station to "avoid any conflicts," according to Agence France-Presse.

FUNCINPEC deputy secretary Ork Socheath had sharp words for the authorities.

"It's very sad that the killers of the murdered journalist have not been found and now another murder has happened," he said. "It more or less shows that the authorities lack the skills and capabilities to deal with the criminals."

But Phnom Penh Deputy Police Commissioner Heng Peou vowed to track down and prosecute the assailants. "I will gather all of the police officers today at around 2 p.m. to work out a plan for [finding the assailants]," he said in an interview. ###

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