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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HR groups report more murders

HR groups report more murders

T HE bodies of several Funcinpec soldiers have been unearthed, adding to the total

of about 40 suspected murders of military or political figures in recent weeks.

It is difficult to be sure whether the killings represent a coordinated decapitation

of Funcinpec's hard-line military leadership or an opportunity for individuals to

settle old scores, human rights workers say.

UN Center for Human Rights (UNCHR) investigators have uncovered the bodies of three

Funcinpec soldiers in shallow graves in the past month. They indicated that in some

cases there were signs of torture before execution.

On July 31, the body of a royalist soldier was dug up about 100 meters from a Phnom

Penh detention camp. "We came here, we found a fresh grave, we have dug up the

grave and found this person," Balaskrishnan Rajagopal of the UNCHR said. "We

found a rope around his neck. This is a clear sign of death by strangulation. As

to why - we don't know."

Two other bodies had been found in the previous week in shallow graves 100km southwest

of the capital. The men - feared by UNCHR to be Ranariddh supporters - were reportedly

bound, blindfolded and shot.

Hun Sen's government has admitted that one senior Funcinpec official, Interior Ministry

secretary of state Ho Sok, was killed in custody by unspecified "angry"

people.

Several other military chiefs including Generals Chao Sambath, Ly Seng Hong and Kroch

Yoeum are known to have been killed. Human rights workers have said they are investigating

about 40 suspected extra-judicial killings.

Meanwhile, a recent wave of arrests of Funcinpec officials has led to widespread

speculation that the crackdown on crime is politically motivated.

"If you look at cases of weapons violation arrests, alleged kidnappers being

detained and robbers being shot - we find that they are nearly all Funcinpec when

we investigate," says a human-rights worker. "Eyewitnesses generally have

a different account of events from what appear in the Khmer press."

"There are classic signs of a campaign to decapitate the remaining opposition

and to coerce its followers into submission," says another human-rights worker.

"The CPP has dealt a swift, decisive blow to their military opponents and are

now targeting political figures through the judicial system."

At a CPP meeting in Pursat during the first week of August, provincial, district

and commune authorities were given instructions on how to control "anarchic

forces" and maintain political stability, according to human rights and other

NGO workers.

"We must take precautions against those saying that Vietnam is supporting Hun

Sen. Those who say these things must be arrested," party officials were reported

as saying. "We must also supervise the work of human-rights organizations. If

they interfere in our affairs, they must be closed immediately."

NGO workers say that copies of the "White Paper" - a document produced

to justify the CPP attack on Funcinpec forces on July 5-6 - are being distributed

widely and that a senior Pursat civilian official has instructed district and commune

leaders to tell people "not to listen to the Voice of America, because it can

confuse them."

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has consistently denied reports that he or his men

have hindered human-rights investigators.

"I allow Red Cross and human rights [workers]. If they come anywhere they can

see, they can go. I allow." He has accused the UN Center for Human Rights of

frightening opposition Members of Parliament into fleeing the country.

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