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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nat. Police involvement in murder denied

Nat. Police involvement in murder denied

GOVERNMENT officials have denied persistent reports that National Police Chief Hok

Lundy or his bodyguards were responsible for the execution of Funcinpec loyalist

Ho Sok.

Ho Sok - the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Interior - was shot dead at the

ministry's Phnom Penh headquarters July 7 after being captured by CPP forces following

two days of fighting in the capital.

Seven weeks later, government officials say they do not know who killed Ho Sok but

they are sure that Hok Lundy was not involved.

"I have heard reports that Hok Lundy killed Ho Sok, and it's not true, I can

assure you," said Khieu Kanharith (CPP), the Secretary of State for Information.

Lundy was not at the ministry at the time of the killing, Kanharith said.

General Khieu Sopheak, an aide to co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng (CPP), also denied

that Lundy or his bodyguards had been the killers.

"To kill someone, if General Hok Lundy wanted to, is very easy for him,"

said Khieu Sopheak. "He's not crazy enough to kill him [Ho Sok] at the ministry.

"How would General Hok Lundy order his people to kill Ho Sok at the ministry?

That would be stupid. I don't think Hok Lundy is stupid."

CPP sources at the ministry told the Post that Hok Lundy has privately acknowledged

that his bodyguards killed Ho Sok. Sar Kheng is aware of that, the sources said,

but could take no action against Lundy.

According to information from other ministry sources, Hok Lundy himself shot Ho Sok.

Funcinpec officials in Cambodia, citing information from ministry staff, also claim

that Lundy personally shot Ho Sok while interrogating him.

The exiled former head of Funcinpec's underground intelligence service told the Associated

Press in Bangkok that Lundy shot Ho Sok after failing to get him to sign a confession

that he had brought Khmer Rouge guerrillas to Phnom Penh. The man said his claim

was based on accounts from National Police officers and soldiers in Second Prime

Minister Hun Sen's bodyguard unit.

No one is prepared to put their name to the allegation against Lundy.

Lundy - promoted to the rank of adviser to the co-Prime Ministers after the Phnom

Penh fighting - is a known close ally of Hun Sen. Sar Kheng, technically Hok Lundy's

superior, is considered to be in a rival camp within the CPP to Hun Sen.

Ho Sok was an outspoken critic of Hun Sen and one of a small group of Funcinpec chiefs,

including General Nhek Bun Chhay, accused by CPP of illegally bringing weapons and

Khmer Rouge soldiers into Phnom Penh.

He is the only Funcinpec official whom Phnom Penh authorities have acknowledged was

murdered while in custody. CPP officials including Hun Sen have denied the killing

was officially sanctioned, and pledged an investigation to find the culprits.

A Ministry of Interior investigation team was appointed and, after a request to Hun

Sen from Funcinpec for action to be taken, three CPP police generals have been suspended.

But ministry officials are adamant that none of the three generals participated in

the killing.

General Khieu Sopheak, who said he was speaking in a personal capacity and not on

behalf of the ministry, said that "to my knowledge, these three generals were

not involved in the killing". The three were suspended because of their "irresponsibility"

in not providing adequate protection for Ho Sok after he was captured and brought

to the ministry, he said.

Other sources said the suspensions were a token gesture and none of the three generals

would face prosecution.

The three are Ma Chhoeun, the deputy chief of the ministry's justice police, his

deputy General Tharn Im, and Thong Lim, the director of the ministry's criminal investigation

department.

Ho Sok was killed in Ma Chhoeun's office at the ministry after being captured in

Phnom Penh on the afternoon of Monday, July 7.

He had earlier taken refuge at the house of the Singaporean Ambassador in Phnom Penh,

after fleeing the nearby besieged residence of First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh

the day before.

Ho Sok left the Ambassador's residence in unexplained circumstances - but Singaporean

diplomats deny that they rejected requests for asylum from him - and is believed

to have been captured a short time later.

He was taken to the Ministry of Interior about 5pm and put in the office of Ma Chhoeun

- because it was one of the few offices still open, according to one official.

According to one source, Ma Chhoeun briefly spoke to Ho Sok, offered him a drink

and then telephoned Hok Lundy and Sar Kheng to seek instructions on what to do.

There are differing accounts of what happened next but Ho Sok is believed to have

been killed within an hour of arriving at the ministry. The official version is that

an unspecified number of unidentified men arrived, entered Chhoeun's office, killed

Ho Sok, and then fled.

The Funcinpec official's body, shot three or four times, was taken to Wat Lanka -

by Thong Lim, according to one source - for cremation in the early hours of July

8. A certificate authorizing the cremation was later issued by the municipal health

office.

CPP sources initially said that Ho Sok had killed himself but Khieu Sopheak confirmed

on the afternoon of July 8 that he had been murdered after being arrested. "He

was shot down by the people that are angry with him," said Sopheak, adding that

he did not know who the killers were.

Sar Kheng and his Funcinpec co-Minister You Hockry signed an order July 24 suspending

Chhoeun, his deputy Tharn Im and Thong Lim. Ung Huot, who has replaced Ranariddh,

said Aug 15 that the suspensions came after he spoke to Hun Sen about the need to

take action over the execution.

Hok Lundy, who was out of Cambodia at press time on a visit with Sar Kheng to China,

has been publicly quoted as saying that the three did not kill Ho Sok but failed

to provide enough security for him.

A human rights worker said this week: "It doesn't really matter who pulled the

trigger, the fact is that they must have done so under instructions.

"It's unbelievable that some low-ranking police or bodyguards would shoot someone

of the stature of Ho Sok without the authorization to do it. That's not how things

work here."

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