A Cambodian opposition party politician was hacked to death on Wednesday night while he was walking home in his rural village, in what police believe is a personal conflict, RFA’s Khmer service has learned.
Cambodia National Rescue Party member Khin Eab, 55, was killed in a grisly murder by a hatchet-wielding assailant, Long Sarin, the police officer in charge of the investigation told RFA.
Khin Eab was the CNRP’s deputy leader for Khtum Koeut village in the Tboung Khmum province that lies in the central lowlands of the Mekong River.
Long Sarin told RFA that the murder did not appear to be politically motivated, but rather the result of a personal conflict.
“The victim’s relatives told me that the victim used to have a minor dispute with the neighbors, and we are investigating this case,” he said.
Police have yet to make any arrests for the attack, or identify a suspect or person of interest.
While local authorities think the murder was the result of a dispute, people close to the victim are unsure.
Seng Seang Ly, who heads the CNRP in the province, said he considers the murder a brutal act affecting CNRP officials in the locality and urged authorities to immediately find justice for the slain activist.
“This murder case concerns me deeply,” Seng Seang told RFA. “That they can do the same to any of us, and the authorities just say it is related to a personal feud is troubling. Such a case should not happen as the commune election is approaching.”
Commune elections are slated for 2017, and while registration is proceeding there have been reports of potential fraud that appear to be aimed at suppressing and intimidating opposition voters. National elections are scheduled for 2018.
Neang Savath, an official with the human rights organization ADHOC in Tboung Khmum province who viewed the crime scene, told RFA that police have been too quick to reach a conclusion.
“To avoid the accusation that there is a political motive, the authorities must show who the killer is,” Neang Savath told RFA.
Cambodian police have a checkered past when it comes to solving the murders of political opponents and government critics.
The latest case came in July 10 when popular government critic Kem Ley was gunned down by a man police identified as a former soldier. While the authorities say Kem Ley was killed over a debt, there are few in Cambodia that believe it.
Other activists and critics have also been killed under murky circumstances with little to show for police investigations.
Reported by Hom Hour for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.