A S the mutilated body of another Funcinpec general was exhumed from a shallow grave
in Kampong Speu, human rights workers continued to unearth new evidence of other
extrajudicial killings in the wake of July's factional fighting.
At an Oct 28 exhumation, relatives positively identified the dead man as Chao Sambath,
the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deputy chief of espionage and intelligence. According
to an August UN Center for Human Rights report, he and fellow general Krouch Yoeum
were captured without an exchange of fire and executed by CPP forces on July 8 in
Oudong district, about 40km northwest of Phnom Penh, while fleeing the capital.
Human rights workers in Phnom Penh, meanwhile, confirmed last week that they have
found four more bodies - believed to be further cases of extrajudicial executions
- at different sits in Kampong Speu province. One had been decapitated.
In addition, new evidence came to light about the alleged execution of three Funcinpec
soldiers in Siem Reap. Po Penh, 45, Mao Bun Thoeun, 35, and one other soldier were
killed in Chong Kal district on Sep 25, according to provincial human rights workers.
Po Penh fought under Funcinpec general Nhek Bun Chhay during the July 5-6 battles
but was captured and later integrated into the newly-created Division 3 in Phnom
Penh. On Sept 22, he and the other two soldiers were sent to his former base in Srey
Snom in Chong Kal to collect soldiers to join the new division, rights workers said.
When Po Penh arrived, his soldiers advised him not to visit his home because he might
be killed. He reportedly replied: "We are not afraid of any killing at all,
now our country is democratic and we have human rights."
But at 9am on Sep 25, the three were arrested by a group of soldiers at Prey Damrey
Slap near Sre Prang village. A boy who witnessed the arrest reportedly said: "The
soldiers questioned them, and beat them, and later shot them in the head."
Workers talked to two district soldiers in the area, one of whom reportedly alleged
that the three victims had "tried to escape from the government to join Nhek
Siem Reap police chief Sart Nady said he was not aware of the case.
Nhek Bun Chhay, now the leader of the Funcinpec resistance, confirmed he had known
"They killed him because he used to be my soldier. He didn't want to join me
at all. He visited his house and was killed," Bun Chhay said by telephone from
the northern Cambodian-Thai border Nov 4.
Meanwhile, in Kam-pong Speu, rights workers were finally successful in persuading
relatives of Chao Sambath - who had been a key ally of Bun Chhay - to try to identify
the second of two bodies found there.
Rights workers had found two shallow graves in a scrubby, remote area near Lor village,
Oudong on Oct 8. The first body, with its hands cut off and legs crossed and bound,
was exhumed and identified as Krouch Yoeum on Oct 15. On that occasion, Yoeum's family
was detained by local police demanding money.
On Oct 28 rights workers requested a government escort for the relatives of Chao
Sambath, who had previously expressed fears about going to the gravesite, to go there
to identify the other body.
Medical examiners - a nurse from a human rights group and forensic examiners from
the government - also joined the delegation.
One rights worker, however, had misgivings about the government presence. Before
the exhumation began, the worker expressed fear the the government experts would
"try to say the body is not Chao Sambath ... they will say the person was not
killed in custody, to dispute our findings."
As the unearthing began, Thuy Phorn, 45, Chao Sambath's sister-in-law, recognized
a tattoo on the body's right wrist. It was a Pali inscription, to make the man who
wore it invulnerable to injury.
But as the gruesome examination progressed, it became clear the tattoo had done little
good: the dead man had been shot in the back and the back of the head, as well as
possibly in the left wrist and the lower chest. Both arms and one leg were broken,
and marks on his back indicated he may have been beaten.
His tongue and fingernails were intact, disproving not only rumors that they had
been ripped out but also CPP General Prum Din's July 9 assertion to Rasmei Kampuchea
newspaper that Chao Sambath had committed suicide by "biting his tongue".
A UN official supervising the exhumation said the case was "an obvious execution
Chea Yoeun, deputy chief of the forensics division of the Interior Ministry, said
that the cause of death could not be conclusively determined, suggesting that the
dead man could have been killed in battle rather than in custody.
But the nurse said that a preliminary analysis showed: "He was killed by a shot
in the back of the head, the exit wound at the left temple. He was probably lying
on the ground and shot, because he could not stand on that [broken] leg." But
the nurse cautioned that this was only a preliminary analysis.
Hah Theach, chief of the local crime police, said at the graveside: "I heard
people say... there were two big officials from Funcinpec killed here, but we did
not investigate because there was not any order from the high ranks to investigate."
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised an investigation into the 41 execution
cases detailed in the UN report. But the investigation committee, slated to include
Interior, Defense and Justice Ministry officials as well as foreign participants,
has yet to be created, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.
"Pending the setup of the investigation, it is very difficult to confirm that
Chao Sambath had been extrajudicially killed ... no one can conclude that except
the investigation committee," he said.
However, a rights worker said that he had been assured by an official in the Interior
Ministry's Scientific and Technical department that "the Chao Sambath case would
be treated as a criminal case".
The government forensics experts said at the graveside that they wanted to keep the
body for further investigation, claiming they could not be sure it was Sambath's.
Interior Ministry forensics official Tit Bunna said Nov 3 that police have yet to
launch any investigation to confirm the dead man's identity.
But the family obtained a doctor's death certificate acknowledging the body was Chao
Sambath and held a cremation Oct 29 at Phnom Penh's Wat Langka. Senior Funcinpec
official Loy Sim Chheang lit the pyre, and fellow party officials You Hockry, Kieng
Vang, Pou Sothirak, Nady Tan and Om Radsady attended.
Yet the dead man was not fondly remembered by Heng Peo, the deputy chief of the national
"We had investigated Chao Sambath many times before he died and we have seen
that he was a 'big boss' of the drug smuggler... but we were afraid the story would
become a political dispute if we arrested him," said Heng Peo, asserting that
he had documents to back up his allegations.
Poe alleged Chao Sambath had also been protecting the arms smugglers who were shot
in an Oct 20 street battle in Phnom Penh.
Chao Sambath's former chief, Nhek Bun Chhay, disputed the allegations. "He was
not related to any drug dealing at all," he said by telephone Nov 4.