Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Another body unearthed; more to come

Another body unearthed; more to come

A S the mutilated body of another Funcinpec general was exhumed from a shallow grave

in Kampong Speu, human rights workers continued to unearth new evidence of other

extrajudicial killings in the wake of July's factional fighting.

At an Oct 28 exhumation, relatives positively identified the dead man as Chao Sambath,

the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deputy chief of espionage and intelligence. According

to an August UN Center for Human Rights report, he and fellow general Krouch Yoeum

were captured without an exchange of fire and executed by CPP forces on July 8 in

Oudong district, about 40km northwest of Phnom Penh, while fleeing the capital.

Human rights workers in Phnom Penh, meanwhile, confirmed last week that they have

found four more bodies - believed to be further cases of extrajudicial executions

- at different sits in Kampong Speu province. One had been decapitated.

In addition, new evidence came to light about the alleged execution of three Funcinpec

soldiers in Siem Reap. Po Penh, 45, Mao Bun Thoeun, 35, and one other soldier were

killed in Chong Kal district on Sep 25, according to provincial human rights workers.

Po Penh fought under Funcinpec general Nhek Bun Chhay during the July 5-6 battles

but was captured and later integrated into the newly-created Division 3 in Phnom

Penh. On Sept 22, he and the other two soldiers were sent to his former base in Srey

Snom in Chong Kal to collect soldiers to join the new division, rights workers said.

When Po Penh arrived, his soldiers advised him not to visit his home because he might

be killed. He reportedly replied: "We are not afraid of any killing at all,

now our country is democratic and we have human rights."

But at 9am on Sep 25, the three were arrested by a group of soldiers at Prey Damrey

Slap near Sre Prang village. A boy who witnessed the arrest reportedly said: "The

soldiers questioned them, and beat them, and later shot them in the head."

Workers talked to two district soldiers in the area, one of whom reportedly alleged

that the three victims had "tried to escape from the government to join Nhek

Bun Chhay".

Siem Reap police chief Sart Nady said he was not aware of the case.

Nhek Bun Chhay, now the leader of the Funcinpec resistance, confirmed he had known

Po Penh.

"They killed him because he used to be my soldier. He didn't want to join me

at all. He visited his house and was killed," Bun Chhay said by telephone from

the northern Cambodian-Thai border Nov 4.

Meanwhile, in Kam-pong Speu, rights workers were finally successful in persuading

relatives of Chao Sambath - who had been a key ally of Bun Chhay - to try to identify

the second of two bodies found there.

Rights workers had found two shallow graves in a scrubby, remote area near Lor village,

Oudong on Oct 8. The first body, with its hands cut off and legs crossed and bound,

was exhumed and identified as Krouch Yoeum on Oct 15. On that occasion, Yoeum's family

was detained by local police demanding money.

On Oct 28 rights workers requested a government escort for the relatives of Chao

Sambath, who had previously expressed fears about going to the gravesite, to go there

to identify the other body.

Medical examiners - a nurse from a human rights group and forensic examiners from

the government - also joined the delegation.

One rights worker, however, had misgivings about the government presence. Before

the exhumation began, the worker expressed fear the the government experts would

"try to say the body is not Chao Sambath ... they will say the person was not

killed in custody, to dispute our findings."

As the unearthing began, Thuy Phorn, 45, Chao Sambath's sister-in-law, recognized

a tattoo on the body's right wrist. It was a Pali inscription, to make the man who

wore it invulnerable to injury.

But as the gruesome examination progressed, it became clear the tattoo had done little

good: the dead man had been shot in the back and the back of the head, as well as

possibly in the left wrist and the lower chest. Both arms and one leg were broken,

and marks on his back indicated he may have been beaten.

His tongue and fingernails were intact, disproving not only rumors that they had

been ripped out but also CPP General Prum Din's July 9 assertion to Rasmei Kampuchea

newspaper that Chao Sambath had committed suicide by "biting his tongue".

A UN official supervising the exhumation said the case was "an obvious execution

and torture."

Chea Yoeun, deputy chief of the forensics division of the Interior Ministry, said

that the cause of death could not be conclusively determined, suggesting that the

dead man could have been killed in battle rather than in custody.

But the nurse said that a preliminary analysis showed: "He was killed by a shot

in the back of the head, the exit wound at the left temple. He was probably lying

on the ground and shot, because he could not stand on that [broken] leg." But

the nurse cautioned that this was only a preliminary analysis.

Hah Theach, chief of the local crime police, said at the graveside: "I heard

people say... there were two big officials from Funcinpec killed here, but we did

not investigate because there was not any order from the high ranks to investigate."

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised an investigation into the 41 execution

cases detailed in the UN report. But the investigation committee, slated to include

Interior, Defense and Justice Ministry officials as well as foreign participants,

has yet to be created, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

"Pending the setup of the investigation, it is very difficult to confirm that

Chao Sambath had been extrajudicially killed ... no one can conclude that except

the investigation committee," he said.

However, a rights worker said that he had been assured by an official in the Interior

Ministry's Scientific and Technical department that "the Chao Sambath case would

be treated as a criminal case".

The government forensics experts said at the graveside that they wanted to keep the

body for further investigation, claiming they could not be sure it was Sambath's.

Interior Ministry forensics official Tit Bunna said Nov 3 that police have yet to

launch any investigation to confirm the dead man's identity.

But the family obtained a doctor's death certificate acknowledging the body was Chao

Sambath and held a cremation Oct 29 at Phnom Penh's Wat Langka. Senior Funcinpec

official Loy Sim Chheang lit the pyre, and fellow party officials You Hockry, Kieng

Vang, Pou Sothirak, Nady Tan and Om Radsady attended.

Yet the dead man was not fondly remembered by Heng Peo, the deputy chief of the national

anti-drug police.

"We had investigated Chao Sambath many times before he died and we have seen

that he was a 'big boss' of the drug smuggler... but we were afraid the story would

become a political dispute if we arrested him," said Heng Peo, asserting that

he had documents to back up his allegations.

Poe alleged Chao Sambath had also been protecting the arms smugglers who were shot

in an Oct 20 street battle in Phnom Penh.

Chao Sambath's former chief, Nhek Bun Chhay, disputed the allegations. "He was

not related to any drug dealing at all," he said by telephone Nov 4.

0

Comments

Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

Turkish Embassy calls for closure of Zaman schools

With an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Erdogan quashed only days ago and more than 7,000 alleged conspirators now under arrest, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia yesterday pressed the govern

CNRP lawmakers beaten

Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly.

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Students at Phnom Penh's Liger Learning Center have written and published a new book, "The Cambodian Economy".