PHNOM PENH — ; A Cambodian court has formally charged three men with the premeditated murder of an opposition activist.
On Tuesday, a Kampong Chhnang court charged Khuth Kak, 40, Chhoy Tin, 40, and Chhoy Chhoeung for the late-February murder of Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Dam.
No trial date has been set as police are still investigating the murder. The court has allowed police six months for further investigation.
"In this case, we do not allow the men to get out on bail and live outside detention because we fear they might try to influence [investigating] authorities," investigating judge of the Kampong Chhnang court Le Sithon told RFA. "This is a murder case...Their punishment could be 10-to-15 or 15-to-20 years in prison."
A source with the Kampong Chhnang police department told RFA that two more suspects are being sought by police.
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 kilometers from his home with his throat slit.
Police were exploring two possible motives — ; a conflict over a fishing lake and accusations that Sok Dam was a witch.
A source confirmed with RFA last week that 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). Some see the outcome in Sok Dam's favor as a possible motive for his murder.
Last week Sam Rainsy Party secretary Eng Chhay Eng told RFA he insisted Sok Dam's death was politically motivated, citing multiple death threats he received after winning the fishing lake dispute.
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told RFA he plans to visit the suspects in custody next week "to collect clear information from them. The arrest is a big step," he said.