Two Cambodian Opposition Party Activists Murdered


2004-01-15
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PHNOM PENH — ; Two activists from Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party were gunned down Thursday by four unidentified gunmen.

The four gunmen entered Chhin La's home at approximately 9 p.m., while Chhin La and fellow Sam Rainsy activist Keo Chan were listening to a Voice of America radio program.

"The killers climbed into the house and opened fire. Chhin La and Keo Chan were killed immediately. This was a politically motivated murder and the act is a threat to our party," Sam Rainsy Party official Eng Chhay Eang told RFA in an interview.

However, Ochrove district governor Sar Chamrong said the killing was not politically motivated and that both men were the victims of an armed robbery.

"After the killing, [the gunmen] threw hand grenades and fired several shots to escape. Three other people were injured," Sar Chamrong said. "Our military police are investigating this incident right now."

Chhin La and Keo Chan both come from the Ochrove district of Banteay Meancchey Province.

Thursday's murder was the second incident this week to befall Sam Rainsy Party activists. On Tuesday, another Sam Rainsy Party supporter, 42-year-old Lay Kong, was gunned down at his home in the central Cambodian province of Kampong Cham at approximately 7:30 p.m. local time. He died after being shot seven times with an AK rifle similar to those used in Thursday's attack. Authorities called Lay Kong's murder a "conflict" that was unrelated to politics.

"The government should pay more attention to [these killings]," Cambodian Center for Human Rights Chief Kem Sokha told RFA. "I think this incident is political discrimination." He pointed out that political murders typically take place in the remote countryside.

In October 2003, several supporters of another Cambodian political party, royalist FUNCINPEC Party, were gunned down – ; including a famous pop star and a deputy editor for a local FUNCINPEC-aligned radio station.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party gained 73 seats in the National Assembly during elections in August. But without a two-thirds majority, Cambodian law prevents him from forming his own government.

The CPP's two main rivals are the royalist FUNCINPEC Party and the Sam Rainsy Party, which won 26 and 24 seats, respectively. Both parties have formed an alliance against Hun Sen's leadership in the future government, called the Alliance of Democrats.

Plans for the formation of a new Cambodian government are still tentative, with member parties of the Alliance of Democrats refusing to form a coalition government with the CPP.

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