The shooting of Chea Vichea is the latest in a spate of high profile murders many believe are linked to politics. While voting day in last year's July 27 national election was judged by independent monitors to be mostly free and fair, the lead up to the ballot and its aftermath have been characterized by an atmosphere of violence and intimidation that continues to threaten Cambodia's fragile democracy. The past 12 months has seen several prominent leaders from across the spectrum of Cambodian society gunned down, including:
Sam Bunthoeun, February 6 2003: President of the Buddhism meditation centre of Odong, was shot twice in the chest by two assailants on a motorcycle in front of Wat Lanka. He died two days later in Calmette Hospital. Bunthoeun advocated that voting was not against Buddhist principles. At the time of the attack deputy police chief Heng Pov said the assassination was the result of a personal dispute between the monk and a layperson, and that police investigators had information on a suspect. No arrests have been made.
Om Radsady, February 18 2003: A senior advisor to Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh was shot in the thigh outside a city restaurant by two men on a Honda AX -1 motorcycle. Radsady died in hospital later that afternoon. Two soldiers were charged for the crime the following month and said robbery was the motive for the murder.
Chuor Chetharith, October 18 2003: A reporter with the pro-Funcinpec radio station, Ta Prohm FM, was gunned down outside his workplace. The same week, PM Hun Sen had warned the station twice to stop analyzing his speeches and insulting him. Chuor was shot point blank in the neck by a K59 pistol and the two men involved escaped on a Honda C125 motorcycle. Police investigators have released a sketch of a suspect but no arrest has been made.
Touch Srey Nich, October 21 2003: A Popular karaoke video star who was seriously wounded and her mother killed by a gun attack outside a flower shop. Four men on two motorcycles fled the scene and no arrests have been made. Srey Nich sang a song that featured in Funcinpec's election campaign, starred in Prince Norodom Ranariddh's directorial debut film 'Raj Borei' and sang songs in support of the Kampuchea Krom community in southern Vietnam.
Chea Vichea, January 22, 2004 : An outspoken workers' rights campaigner and SRP supporter was gunned down while reading a newspaper near Wat Lanka. He was shot three times by a gunman who escaped with an accomplice on a motorcycle. Police arrested two men who they say confessed to the crime but the men have denied the charges.