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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - "I believe we will be killed, one by one"

"I believe we will be killed, one by one"

THE March 4 slaying of Funcinpec Brigadier-General Kim Sang has succeeded in rocking

even those in the international community who still professed to believe in the existence

of political goodwill for the July elections.

Perhaps more importantly, the assassins have sent a clear signal to Funcinpec - to

both the military security apparatus Kim Sang allegedly worked for, and the party's


The "highly untimely" killing of Kim Sang outside his home was a slap in

the face to foreign donors. The hit occurred less than two hours before the trial

of ousted premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh and two days before the 'Friends of Cambodia'

meeting in Manila.

Many people - especially foreign donors who previously said there was a united CPP

commitment to a peaceful political environment - are now conceding that, at

the very least, powerful and extreme forces are operating independently from the

decisions, prior knowledge and censure of the party's top leadership.

For a lot of other observers, that's a fact those donors should have taken on board

months ago.

Sang's execution was the third of a high-profile Funcinpec officer in a week. It

followed the shootings of Mom Sameth and Keo Sovan.

Rights investigators have been unable to confirm many details of Sameth's killing

because there are simply too many suspected executions to look into.

"We have a very long list of cases to investigate and very few hands,"

one investigator said.

Sovan was killed on March 2, and another Funcinpec official, Captain So Samoeun,

is believed to be dead after being held by Hun Sen's bodyguards as recently as last


One rights worker said that nearly a dozen other people are missing.

If the timing of Sang's murder is difficult for aid donors to accept - though none

has yet publicly suggested that the elections are in doubt because of such incidents

- the killing has had the desired effect on Sang's Funcinpec colleagues.

"Everybody is frightened about being killed," said one colleague who did

not want to be identified because he fears he is an assassination target.

"When we meet together nobody knows what to do because the government is killing

its own officers," he said. "I am nervous now because I have been told

many times that they want to kill me. Yesterday [March 6] I got four phone calls

threatening assassination."

"I believe we will be killed, one by one."

When asked who had made the threats, he said: "That's up to you to understand

by yourself. The people they want to kill are the Funcinpec generals."

Sang's killing, according to one informed source, was "a message" to the

Funcinpec intelligence unit for which the naval police chief was said to be working.

Sang's two murderers, dressed in police uniforms, took their time to make sure he

died. They were unconcerned, deliberate and professional in their actions, said one

local official.

"They were killers working with the right orders, from the right people. Why

should they care?"

The powerful forces now considered uncontrollable are known by name to virtually

every journalist, rights worker and diplomat in the country.

These forces, perhaps headed by ten or a dozen men who control thousands more, operate

in inter-linked webs of corruption, money, guns, historical friendships and power.

Their impunity seems absolute.

Even Khmer officials privately whisper that donors need only insist on one electoral

condition: let these men keep their wealth and keep their impunity, but don't give

the government any aid until they are relieved of their positions.

"They've got enough money for the rest of their life," said one government

source, "but you must realize that you can't deal with these people... you can't

deal with these people any more!"

On March 6 Agence-France Presse reported a "senior Western diplomat" as

saying Hun Sen had lost control of "radical elements" within his party

"who want to derail the elections".

"They are not concerned with the reaction of the international community. I

don't believe Hun Sen is one of them, but I am really worried that he may not be

able to stop or prevent the violence," the diplomat reportedly said.

Several sources told the Post that Hun Sen has indeed little ability to control the

"warlords" under him. There are anecdotes about the Second Prime Minister's

anger over incidents that have occurred without his knowledge - but the anger, said

one official, is a "short reaction".

But Sang's murder does not seem an arbitrary one. Nor unexpected, least of all to

himself. Sang may have been more a well-chosen target.

According to government sources, Sang was part of a Funcinpec intelligence or logistical

network operating under resistance leader General Nhek Bun Chhay and, by extension

in their opinion, the Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng.

Members of this unit had been warned for some months to stop their work.

CPP sources asserted that they had thoroughly infiltrated the unit, and knew what

Funcinpec was doing. Independent sources confirm that Sang was "very close"

to Bun Chhay.

For some time - possibly till around November or December last year - the group was

lying low. Its apparent "re-activation" as an opposition intelligence unit

coincided with Sang's own family and colleagues' accounts of death threats to members

of the group.

"I know [Sang had] received phone calls from his friends in Thailand and he

asked them to stop calling him. He had been warned that he would be killed [for being

in touch with them]," said one source on condition of anonymity.

"[Suspected unit members were warned] either they stop what they are doing -

or what they were suspected of doing - or be killed," he said.

Kim Sang, who was involved in the July fighting at Pochentong airport, remained active

and influential after that, and retained the support of many men.

He was also close to the late Secretary of State for Interior Ho Sok, who was executed

on the grounds of the Interior Ministry following the July coup.

One diplomat from a country that has agreed to fund elections described the pattern

of killings since last July's fighting as a systematic effort to "remove the

fangs of Funcinpec" while leaving its political leaders physically unharmed.

Human rights workers say Sang's execution was unquestionably political. "There

is no doubt. This was a political killing," said one.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International said government security forces

have conducted an ongoing campaign of political killings since the July coup. "Hundreds

of people have been living in fear because of their political beliefs and activities,

and scores have been killed," the rights group said in a March 2 statement.

Another rights worker said mid-ranking Funcinpec or Sam Rainsy Party supporters at

the provincial, district and village levels are now most at risk.

"Whoever commands authority... is a primary target for killing. My understanding

is [that] the tactic is not to kill senior politicians - that would be too obvious

- the tactic is to kill intermediaries between politicians and the people. Without

them, [the politicians] can't campaign."

Pro-CPP papers that had been demanding the ouster of Sang's cousin, Interior Secretary

of State Kieng Vang, published stories that claimed Sang's death was motivated by

robbery, a jealous husband or even gambling debts.

A few local policemen, politicians loyal to Hun Sen and a handful of diplomats are

among the few who believe those motivations.

Sang's wife, Sam Tevy, said her husband had been aware of the assassination plans

for some time.

"He had been warned.

"He was being followed for the past three months."

She said he had forbidden her to go to the market to sell spices because he feared

if the assassins failed to kill him they would go after his family.

Opposition paper The Voice of Khmer Youth reported that Sang was killed after being

summoned to a meeting by national police chief Hok Lundy.

A colleague of Sang's said Tevy had confirmed to him that Lundy had phoned on the

morning of the murder, while another source confirmed the information and said the

general had not planned to work that day. "He had requested a leave of absence

for three days and wasn't going to go into work. He was called in."

Jurisdiction for the murder investigation has been taken away from district police

and is being handled by a special nine-person committee at the Interior Ministry,

headed by Lundy's deputy Yeng Marady.

He said so far the investigation has not made much progress. "We haven't seen

any light. We are still in the dark, but we try."

One government source said the month of March is "message time" to those

who would begin, or continue, to agitate against the Kingdom's political rule. Such

comments lend credence to rights workers' concerns about an orchestrated campaign

to silence the remnants of an opposition.

"If you look at the background of this person [Sang] and you look at the killings

of the last six to seven months, he fits exactly within the pattern, every element,"

said one rights investigator.

Sang was a staunch royalist from the anti-Vietnamese resistance of the '80s who continued

to work in the state security apparatus, retaining ties to Bun Chhay.

"The timing is bad?" one observer asked rhetorically of the murder. "Perhaps

the timing is very good. Perhaps, if you talk about timing, the CPP had no choice."

"This is the month that [internal opposition] must be stopped" because

the electoral mechanism is now beginning, he said.

Opposition politician Sam Rainsy called the recent surge in political violence "a

direct consequence" of the impending return of Ranariddh and "a pre-emptive

move to destroy Funcinpec" before the election.

Government sources said that the aim of the "radical elements" within CPP

was not to derail the elections, but to ensure that by silencing "internal"

opposition, Hun Sen is more free to battle against international pressure.

Japanese first secretary Kazuhiro Nakai described the current climate as "very

much in flux" and Sang's killing as "highly untimely", but he cautioned

that the Japanese would not focus too closely on one incident.

"We have to be careful to not jump to a conclusion too quickly," he explained.



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