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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pop singer Pov Panhapich paralyzed in hospital

Pop singer Pov Panhapich paralyzed in hospital

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Pop singer Pov Panhapich, shot in the neck and waist on February 23 on her way to

school, is improving but she remains in a Vietnamese hospital as police search for

her assailants.

Pov Panhapich, now paralyzed in a Vietnamese hospital.

Pov Sopheavy, Panhapich's sister, said 23-year-old Panhapich seems improved but is

still paralyzed and breathing with the aid of a respirator. The family was paying

$500 a day for her medical bills at first but this had now dropped to $100 a day,

Sopheavy said. She had sold some possessions to get money for the treatment. They

are hoping the public will contribute.

Mok Chito, chief of the penal department at the Ministry of Interior, said the investigation

is progressing and police are collecting more evidence and witnesses, and were hopeful

of arresting Panhapich's attackers.

"I hope we will apprehend them soon," Chito said on March 22. "We

want to end this case soon, so the police are working hard to find out the cause

of the shooting."

On the morning of February 23, two assailants on a motorbike opened fire at close

range on Panhapich, a beautiful and popular singer, after she had left her car and

was walking to the English Language Training school (ELT) in Phnom Penh. She was

taken to Calmette Hospital for emergency surgery and from there days later to a hospital

in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City. She is expected to be under treatment there for a

long time.

On February 28, the Ministry of Interior (MoI), in collaboration with Phnom Penh

police, arrested three suspects in Phnom Penh - reported to be Riel Boran, 37, Chhai

Hun, 36, and Seng Chanda, 23 - and a fourth, Lor Nal, 37, in Battambang province.

But after questioning on March 1, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found that the four

were not involved in Panhapich's shooting and they were charged instead with using

illegal weapons.

"I do not know whether the suspects arrested by the police are the people who

shot my sister," Sopheavy said. "I have not seen them; it is a police job."

However Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief, said police are continuing

to investigate two of the suspects, because eyewitnesses had identified Chhai Hun

as the man who shot Panhapich and Lor Nal as the driver of the getaway motorbike.

"The witnesses identified the two suspects as the killers but they strongly

denied the allegation," Naruth said, "However we have already accused them

of using illegal weapons and we are continuing to investigate to make sure the suspects

are the killers."

Naruth said Panhapich was the victim of a revenge shooting, but declined to comment

further until police had completed their investigation.

Cambodia has a history of revenge attacks on movie stars and singers by assailants

believed to be hired by jealous wives. On July 6, 1999, Piseth Pelika, a much-loved

movie star and Apsara dancer said to be the mistress of a high government official,

was shot and died seven days later at Calmette hospital. Nobody was arrested.

On December 5, 1999, Karaoke singer Tat Marina, similarly reported to be having a

love affair with a government official, was shockingly disfigured in an acid attack.

Nobody was arrested.

On October 21, 2003, popular singer and professor Touch Srey Nich was shot along

with her mother. Srey Nich was paralyzed and her mother died. Nobody was arrested.

Actor Chea Samnang, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund,

said Panhapich is a real Cambodian woman respectful to older actors and actresses.

"I'm very sorry about what happened to her," he said.

The Cambodian National Research Organization issued a statement on February 26 saying

the government must find Panhapich's assailants.

Ieng Sithul, president of the Khmer Artists Association, expressed his concern over

attacks on actors and actresses and the fact that their assailants and those who

hired them were never arrested.

"I would like to appeal to authorities to arrest the shooters, so that artists

can feel confident," Sithul said.

Sithul said Panhapich could move her hands and legs, and is in a better condition

than Srey Nich.

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