AS opposition leader Sam Rainsy commemorated the deadly March 30, 1997 grenade attack
against him and supporters, human rights investigators were classifying a killing
of a Rainsy activist in Kandal as likely to be political.
In what may be the first murder in the runup to commune elections, Chhum Doeun, 45,
was shot to death in his home Mar 25 in Ang Snoul district. The Adhoc rights group,
noting he had been planning to run for commune chief, said it was "extremely
concerned about this possible political violence" and tentatively linked it
to the polls in an Apr 1 statement.
The Sam Rainsy Party said that Doeun had been "very active" in the July
1998 election campaign and complained of voting irregularities in his commune.
"This is a political murder," said a local human rights worker, adding
that he believed the killing was related to upcoming elections. "There were
some policemen in the district who threatened him before the killing."
The investigator said that another party activist in the same village was threatened
at a pagoda ceremony the day of Doeun's death.
"Now they are afraid," said the investigator of Rainsy's supporters in
The investigator said the killers also robbed Doeun's wife. But, noting the victim
was poor, Adhoc said "the possibility that robbery was a motive ... is highly
He said witnesses noted that a Nissan carload of men in military uniforms had been
seen several times around Doeun's house in the days before the murder and also the
same evening of the killing.
Scores of Rainsy activists were killed in suspicious circumstances, many classified
as likely political by the UN human rights office here, in the months before last
year's general election. Virtually all remain unsolved.
The 1997 grenade attack on a Rainsy-led rally outside the National Assembly, which
killed at least 17 and wounded at least 140, also remains unsolved.
The American Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was called in when an American
citizen was wounded, produced a report on the incident which has never been released.
A Jun 27, 1997 Washington Post article claimed that a preliminary report "tentatively
pinned responsibility" on a bodyguard unit of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
At a Mar 30 commemoration ceremony, Rainsy paid tribute to the memory of the victims
and vowed to get the FBI report released.
A spokesman for visiting US Senator Mitch McConnell read a statement from the Senator
at the ceremony; McConnell pledged to continue to push for the release of the FBI
"I don't believe the US should be afraid to share the results of the investigation
of this cowardly act," the statement read.
Although National Human Rights Committee chair Om Yentieng was recently quoted as
saying arrests were pending in the case, he told the Post that evidence is still
However he said that they believed they knew who was responsible.
Meanwhile, unnamed police sources claimed Rainsy's party is suspected of orchestrating
a series of grenade attacks - killing one and injuring 36 - against mainly Vietnamese
cafes and karaoke bars, according to a Mar 24 Agence France-Presse report.
Rainsy has vehemently denied any connection with the attacks and called the accusation
"They want to divert attention from the Khmer Rouge issue. . . and divert attention
from the questions the opposition has raised at the National Assembly," Rainsy
"It is another Damocles' sword over my head . . . they kill three or four birds
with one stone."
However, Phnom Penh deputy police commissioner Ek Kreth told the Post that police
had not linked the grenades to any person or party.
A human rights worker said the attacks were simple disputes:
"The Vietnamese people played their tapes very loudly, it made the neighbors