ANOTHER Sam Rainsy Party candidate for the February, 2002 commune elections has been
Sam Sophear, 30, was ambushed and severely beaten by five men in Battambang November
5. Sophear's brother, who was with him at the time, escaped and raised the alarm
but it was too late for the aspiring politician, who died in hospital four hours
The Svay Por commune candidate was the fourth candidate to be murdered this year
- three were from the SRP while the other was from Funcinpec.
The three previous deaths were officially ascribed to variations on the theme of
witchcraft, personal vendettas or banditry. The Human Rights Action Committee, however
maintained that at least one case, the killing of SRP candidate Uch Horn, was politically
Battambang's Chief of Police, Heng Chantha, said the latest killing was motivated
by robbery and that it was only a coincidence that Sophear was an election candidate.
Sophear, a masseur, was on his way to see a client when he and his brother were attacked
for their motorbike, Chantha said.
However, Cheam Chany, SRP MP for Battambang, said he was "100 percent certain"
the killing was politically motivated.
"If it was a case of robbery then why did they leave Sophear's motorbike behind
and flee?" he asked.
Chany said that the SRP had asked Battambang police and the National Election Committee
to investigate the attack.
Chantha was adamant that the investigation would focus on robbery as the motive,
adding that the only reason the motorbike was not stolen was that it had run out
of petrol at the time of the attack.
The Provincial Action Committee, comprised of human rights NGO's Licadho, Adhoc,
Vigilance and Kampuchea Krom, will conduct a joint investigation of the killing,
said a Licadho spokesperson.
The murder comes just days after the SRP claimed that three candidates in Preah Vihear
fled their homes after threats from the commune police chief. The three - Koeut Chhon,
Moeurn Voeurn and Sap Saut - had been forbidden to use walkie-talkies and were
told to dismantle radio equipment or risk arrest, according to an SRP statement.
A November 7 SRP statement on Sophear's killing concluded: "In a country like
Cambodia which has been ruled by communists, the real author of killing, intimidation
or acts of violence against the opposition members ... are not subject to any punishment".