A senior Buddhist monk with ties to a political party challenging Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s hold on power has been found beaten to death in what one opposition figure called a politically motivated killing.
Keo Touch, 78, the chief monk of Thmang Pagoda in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet city, was found dead in his residence on Thursday night, sources said.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) provincial leader Riel Khemrin described the murder as “premeditated” and “politically motivated.”
“Authorities found bruises on his neck and near his eyebrows,” he said.
The dead monk was the father of CNRP provincial member Keo Romanea, who had recently been promoted to a senior position in the party, sources said.
Pin Bunroth, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said that though a motive for the killing has not yet been established, “the killers after murdering the monk took his corpse and put it where he slept, and didn’t take any of his belongings.”
“I haven’t concluded anything about the murder,” provincial deputy police chief Hem Saban told RFA, adding that police are still investigating the case.
“We must wait until the investigation is finished,” he said. “For now, we are still in the dark.”
Party meeting disrupted
Meanwhile, supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) disrupted a public meeting called on Friday by acting CNRP president Kem Sokha in Pailin province, according to a CNRP statement.
Hecklers shouted and shoved participants and used a bullhorn to prevent the audience from hearing Kem Sokha’s speech, the party statement said.
“The National Rescue Party appeals to the national and international community to investigate this disturbance and judge whether all [Cambodian] political parties can act freely,” the statement said.
Speaking later in an interview with a government-linked radio station, Pailin provincial governor Y Chhieng said the meeting was disrupted because Kem Sokha had invited villagers to attend a public forum but had then “talked politics.”
“People ousted Kem Sokha because they know that this individual with the National Rescue Party is not a nationalist,” he said.
“Kem Sokha and [party candidate] Sam Rainsy are cheaters,” he said.
Sam Rainsy, who is contesting national elections in Cambodia scheduled for July 28, has been living in self-imposed exile in France since 2009 after being tried and convicted in absentia on a string of charges that critics contend were politically motivated.
Cambodia’s National Election Commission (NEC), whose nine members were approved by a CPP-dominated parliament last year, says that he cannot stand for office because of his criminal convictions.
The United States and other countries have criticized Cambodian authorities for blocking Sam Rainsy from running in the elections, saying that his exclusion will call into question the vote’s legitimacy.
Reported by Sek Bendit for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.