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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen's nephew still at large as death toll climbs

Hun Sen's nephew still at large as death toll climbs

At least six people have been shot dead on the streets of Phnom Penh in the last

month, said human rights monitoring group ADHOC. It said the death toll over that

period was higher than average for Phnom Penh.

Police have yet to jail any of the suspects identified in the killings. The most

shocking incident to rock the capital occurred on October 27 when a four-car caravan,

allegedly driven by sons of influential families, plowed into a parked truck on Sihanouk

Boulevard on October 27.

One of the drivers, Nhim Sophea, reportedly a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen, opened

fire on bystanders milling around the accident. The collision and subsequent gunfire

left three dead and four injured.

A warrant was issued for Sophea's arrest, but no action has been taken.

The death toll also includes a recent spate of suspected political attacks which

have left Funcinpec journalist Chour Chetharith and the mother of singer Touch Srey

Nich dead. Nich herself was gravely injured after being shot repeatedly in the face

and neck on October 21 and remains in serious condition at a Bangkok hospital.

In separate incidents, Oknha Sains Rachna, 54, was seriously wounded and singer Chanda

Ravy was shot in apparently personal disputes. And a chef from the Imperial Hotel

was shot dead in what police called a revenge killing on October 30.

An ADHOC monitor, who is investigating the October 27 murders, said several sources

had identified Nhim Sophea as the triggerman behind the shooting.

"It is troubling for the country when sons of high-ranking government officials

and the rich, particularly the nephews of Prime Minister Hun Sen, are free from punishment,"

said a representative from ADHOC who asked to remain anonymous. "We have seen

the law practiced only against the poor and weak."

Police officials have hesitated to provide more details about the case or confirm

Sophea's relationship with Hun Sen. Typically, detailed information about murder

suspects is broadcast on television.

"We can imagine how afraid police officials must be for their safety,"

said the ADHOC monitor. "When we tried to get information from the police about

Hun Sen's nephew, they didn't want to talk about the case."

Deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said that on October 29 the court had charged five suspects

in the October 27 killings for traffic violations and intentional murder. Four of

the accused, Nhim Sophea, Pov Hun, Seng Sovanara and another suspect named Pov, possibly

going by the name of Moung, remain free.

The fifth suspect, Tan Chamroeun, was arrested at the scene of the killing on October

27. ADHOC said it was unclear whether he will remain in prison to await trial. The

prosecutor in the case spoke to the Post by telephone from the Phnom Penh municipal

court on November 4.

He said that Chamroeun, when asked about the identity of those riding with him on

the night of the murders, denied he had any association with them.

"I don't know who they are," he reportedly said.

The investigating judge in the case, Hing Thirith, told the Post that the suspects

were still under investigation. He said he could not speak about the operation. He

feared it would make suspects such as Nhim Sophea flee the country to avoid arrest.

But he added that it was not easy for him to investigate the suspects, who he believed

had powerful people behind them.

"I am concerned about my personal safety, but there is no choice," said

Thirith.

However, Heng Pov, Phnom Penh municipal deputy police chief, said that Phnom Penh

governor Kep Chutema had encouraged police officials to pursue and arrest the four

suspects.

"We don't know who they are," said Pov. "But the police will still

work as usual."

On November 4, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh told reporters after

meeting with newly elected members of the National Assembly from Funcinpec and the

Sam Rainsy Party that the new coalition government would end the culture of impunity.

"We are determined to bring the country into a state of law to eliminate this

culture of impunity and bring justice for society to build the confidence of the

people," Ranariddh said.

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