A home intruder on Saturday set fire to election documents and used an axe to attack the top elections official of a commune in Battambang province that fell to the opposition at the June 4 local ballot, according to local officials who said they had ruled out a political motive.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party won Thma Koul district’s O’Taki commune with 57.6 percent of the vote to the Cambodian People’s Party’s 40.6 percent, after having taken 27.9 percent to the CPP’s 67.1 percent at the 2012 commune elections.
Less than a week later, at about 1:30am on Saturday, Houn Yorn, the 62-year-old head of the O’Taki Commune Election Committee, and his wife were struck multiple times with an axe, though they have since recovered and left hospital, said District Police Chief Hong Sopheap.
“We are now cooperating with the provincial police to investigate. It is a case of attempted murder,” he said, declining to elaborate until investigations were over, except to say the attack was not about the elections. “It is not related to political motivations.”
The victim too said he did not believe the attack was political. He said his assailant had set alight documents in which he gave his assessment of the running of the June 4 vote but that he believed it was to lure him and his wife downstairs to kill and rob them.
“When I went down to see [the fire], he immediately attacked me – he did not ask me for money. I think that he really wanted to kill me,” Yorn said, adding that he was struck in the chest, stomach and ears by the axe.
“My wife came to see, and called out for help. Then he also attacked my wife. When my wife called for help, he just ran away,” he said. “I think it was a robbery case, as my wife had just exchanged some money.”
The head of the CNRP’s district executive council, Bun Van, said he was not aware of the details of the case but would have local opposition officials look into it and would withhold judgment until then. “I will have my staff investigate the case to find out what was really the motivation,” Van said. He said he hoped the police would thoroughly investigate. “We hope the authorities find justice for the victim,” he said.
The defeated O’Taki commune chief from the CPP, Pong Mab, said he too did not see any link to the elections, and that it was more likely that someone had seen Yorn’s wife wearing expensive jewellery in public.
“It was a robbery, because his wife wore something showing off, and the thief saw it. I dare to swear to that there was no political motivation,” Mab said, adding the commune was usually safe. “It was probably outsider thieves.”
National Election Committee Deputy Secretary-General Som Sorida said he would ensure the case was investigated to confirm there was no link to the June 4 elections.
“We have always worried about the security of every one of our election committee officials. I cannot speculate about what type of case this was, because I do not know the details. I will contact the Provincial Election Committee to learn the details,” Sorida said. “The NEC will be monitoring this case.”