A pro-Funcinpec reporter, Chuor Chetharith, was gunned down outside his office at
Ta Prohm radio on October 18 in the first targeted killing of a journalist since
A press release issued by Reporters without Borders on October 20 stated that six
journalists had been killed in Cambodia between 1994 and 1997. None of the killers
have been brought to justice.
Chetharith, 37, an editor and former Funcinpec aide in the Ministry of Interior,
was the victim of an execution-style killing.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights reported that two young men pulled up on a
Honda C-125 outside his offices at Ta Prohm radio on October 18. One walked up behind
Chetharith and shot him once in the base of the neck while he was leaving his car
at 8:15 am. The two suspects then drove away. Chetharith died at the scene.
Both Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) quickly painted the murder as a political
killing. The two parties pulled out of planned talks with the Cambodian People's
Party (CPP) at the Royal palace on October 20 aimed at ending the three-month political
standoff preventing a new government from forming.
"It is most difficult indeed not to conclude that the murder was purely politically
motivated," Funcinpec and SRP wrote in a joint statement as the Alliance of
Democrats on the day of the murder.
They pointed to earlier remarks made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in the week before
the killing that criticized the Funcinpec station for its "insulting" broadcasts.
Hun Sen told reporters on October 14 that "leaders of political parties should
control their broadcast media in order to avoid the attacks on each other. [Insulting]
is not good morality for educated people."
Khieu Kanharith, spokesman for the CPP, told the Post on October 21 that the timing
of the comments was merely a coincidence .
"Everyone has tried to push the case as a politically motivated one and I don't
believe it was," Kanharith said. "We should leave the authorities to investigate."
He said it was too early to decide about the motive of the killing. However, Kanharith
proposed one theory, repeated by other members of the CPP, that the journalist, who
had close ties to those in Funcinpec who favored political reconciliation with the
CPP, was killed to drive a wedge between the two parties. Several CPP officials speculated
that hard-liners in the Funcinpec party could have instigated the murder.
But the head of the 16-member committee investigating the killing, Poly Da, undersecretary
of state at the Ministry of Interior, refused to speculate on the motive for the
"We have experts from CPP and Funcinpec working together on the issue,"
said Da. The committee, appointed by the Ministry of Interior on October 21, has
nine members from CPP and seven from Funcinpec.
The killing followed a prolonged verbal battle between two rival radio stations controlled
by the CPP, radio FM 95, and the Royalist Ta Prohm radio FM 90.
A representative of the Club of Cambodian Journalist (CCJ), Khieu Kola, told the
Post he had listened to the stations' broadcasts since the June election campaign.
Often, he said, the rhetoric turned vicious.
"I am always concerned that the programs trading insults between CPP and Funcinpec
would cause violence if some of their supporters could not control their anger,"
The government has disavowed responsibility for the political dialogue on the airwaves.
Lu Laysreng, Minister of Information, said he could not control the radio program
because it would constitute political interference.
"Both pro-CPP and Funcinpec radio are the same," he said. "I gave
an order several times to stop the insults but those stations ignored my regulation,
and didn't listen to me."
Reporters Without Borders, based in France, wrote that King Norodom Sihanouk stated
on his website that the killing was politically motivated and complained that 99
percent of those cases go unpunished.