Cambodian Police Say Opposition Activists Murder Result of Personal Dispute


2004.03.03
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Politics ruled out as for murder motive

PHNOM PENH — ; Cambodian police say an opposition party activist appears to have been beaten and murdered because of a personal dispute, but a party spokesman says Sok Dam was more likely murdered because of his politics, RFA's Khmer service reports.

Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Dam, 49, disappeared from his home in Trapang Chan village in central Kampong Chhnang Province on Feb. 24. Three days later, his badly beaten body was discovered in a shallow grave at a nearby field two kms from his home with his throat slit.

"We are having difficulty in finding the truth because — ; we found only one big stick nearby and we are searching for the knife the killer used to cut his throat. Our men have questioned all parties who had a conflict with him over a fishing lake, which is a possible reason for his murder," Kampong Chhnang police chief Touch Narath told RFA. He added that police believe two or three people were involved in Sok Dam's murder.

Kampong Chhnang provincial police are still investigating, he said.

A source with the Sam Rainsy Party said Sok Dam, a popular Boribor District Council member, won a dispute in November 2003 on behalf of 200 villagers whose fishing lake was taken over by a local leader of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

Sok Dam won victory in the fishing dispute and the land was officially returned to the villagers in mid-November. However, some see the outcome in his favor as a possible motive for his murder.

"The reason police are giving [for Sok Dam's murder] is not acceptable. I still insist that the killing of Sok Dam was of political motivation because he received many death threats after he became successful [with the fishing lake dispute] and before he was killed," Sam Rainsy Party secretary Eng Chhay Eng told RFA.

Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told RFA he sent his own investigative team to the area "to meet with his family and police, but I have concluded that Sok Dam was not killed during a robbery, nor did he have any business conflicts with neighbors. There was only one conflict with local CPP authorities over a fishing lake for villagers," he said.

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