It was Sunday night and FUNCINPEC organizer Nam Saroeun took a break from his busy
weeks of observing voter registration to watch a video in his favorite cafe. Pressure
was building up already in Kroch Chhmar district in Kompong Cham province.
Saroeun and three other FUNCINPEC members had already been threatened by State of
Cambodia (SOC) police in early December and that morning two policemen had ridden
by the FUNCINPEC office yelling "you shall die." The 34-year-old tobacco
farmer decided to make an early evening of it to get home to his wife and four kids.
He lay down on his mat with his four-year-old son and fell asleep.
By 11 p.m., Nam Saroeun was dead, shot through the back with three rounds from an
AK-47 fired from underneath his house by unknown assassins. None of the seven other
people asleep in the house at the time, including four young children, saw the assailants.
Saroeun's wife, 35-year-old Sok San, said she heard what sounded like three men run
from under their house and fire two more shots. Dogs barked.
FUNCINPEC leaders in Kroch Chhmar were quick to blame the murder on SOC gunmen and
called on UNTAC to protect party members in the province. They pointed to earlier
threats on party members and the killing of over 20 other FUNCINPEC officials around
the country in pre-election violence.
Kompong Cham province first Vice Governor Khek Sam Onn said that he knew of a murder
in Kroch Chhmar that day but that he was unaware that the victim was a political
party member. He said that local police were investigating. He went on to charge
that Kroch Chhmar FUNCINPEC leader Son Savan "was a Khmer Rouge com-mander...she
doesn't stay in her office...we wonder about her secret activities."
UNTAC CivPol officials in the district confirmed FUNCINPEC had filed charges of intimidation
on Dec. 6 but did not name party members who were allegedly threatened. Since there
were no immediate witnesses, CivPol officials declined to characterize the killing
as 'political'. "FUNCIPEC exaggerates these things to get more votes in the
election," said one CivPol official.
UNTAC provincial election officer Theo Noel condemned the killing and said that if
it were proven to be a political assassination, he might call for UNTAC's newly appointed
special prosecutor to take over the case.