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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Many facets in Thun Bun Ly murder probe

Many facets in Thun Bun Ly murder probe

THUN Bun Ly may have achieved something like hero status in death but in life there

were a number of people who considered him a villain.

His association with Sam Rainsy's banned Khmer Nation Party (KNP) provokes an almost

irresistible tendency to conclude a political motive for his murder. In the same

vein as many Khmer opinion publishers, many of his columns were vitriolic and highly

offensive.

His newspapers often carried articles and cartoons which heaped scorn on the co-Prime

Ministers and the Royal Government. Just over a year ago he appeared in court to

answer what amounted to defamation charges filed by both co-Prime Ministers.

He challenged the court's verdict through a number of appeals and, at the time of

his death, the issue was still unresolved.

But Bun Ly continued his written attacks anyway. Just two weeks before he was gunned

down, he published a piece which pilloried Hun Sen's wife.

But there were others, the Ministry of Interior was quick to point out, who may have

wanted him dead.

A statement signed by both Ministers of Interior and released May 23 announced an

investigation into Bun Ly's death will be headed by CPP General Hok Lundy.

The statement labeled the publisher's assassination as "a disgraceful act which

cannot be forgiven" and said the ministry could not rule out a political motive.

It suggested that Bun Ly may have been killed for other reasons.

"Preliminary information tells us [he] used to have a logging business which

still owes money," a translation of the statement reads.

"Along with that he kidnapped [a young girl] whose parents have filed a complaint

with the court... apart from that he had two wives who are having a complicated dispute."

However, a close family friend denied his wives were in conflict.

"Bun Ly actually had three wives, but the first died during Pol Pot's time.

She had one child who is now being looked after by his second wife," the family

member said.

"He married his second wife about ten years ago, but five years later fell in

love with his third wife - even after that he had two children with his second wife.

" The second wife was very hurt - but what could she do? In Cambodia women are

not educated, they can not earn a decent living and with children it's hard to get

another husband. And so over time she accepted the situation - the pain went and

the women have become friends."

A family member also denied Bun Ly owed money from logging operations which cut trees

for firewood east of Kompong Sala in Kompong Som province.

"Bun Ly managed a timber business for the government during State of Cambodia

(SoC) time. He would get a percentage of profits but he left the business nearly

four years ago because he had to pay too much tax to the Khmer Rouge...," he

said.

Both sources said they knew nothing of the kidnapping allegation despite the affair

being reported in the Khmer press.

However, the Post has obtained copies of a statement made to police by a 15 year

old girl, Huy Theara, and depositions made by her parents to the Interior Ministry

seeking 20 million riels in compensation for the girls abduction, rape and subsequent

sale into prostitution.

The girl, reportedly the runner up in a local beauty competition, alleges she was

tricked into coming to Phnom Penh from Kompong Speu by Bun Ly's cook who introduced

her to the newspaper editor in October last year.

According to the statement, Bun Ly told her she could stay at his house and that

he would provide her with a teacher.

She stayed for two nights but on the third the cook asked her to take a pill which

she did.

"When I woke up I had dizziness and had no clothes on and [I wondered] why I

was in Thun Bun Ly's room... I cried and kicked the door with sorrow for losing my

virginity, but no matter how I cried no one would come and let me out of the room."

Huy Theara goes on to explain how she was seized and chloroformed in the publisher's

house before being forced to sleep with men at the Wat Phnom hotel.

Battambang police intercepted the girl and a woman she was with while they were on

route to Thailand where the girl was to be sold.

The woman is currently serving a five year jail term but the parents case against

Bun Ly never got to court.

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