CHEAT Lyto - a bodyguard to the Funcinpec Secretary of State for Interior Ho Sok
- was shot seven times by a band of about 40 soldiers on Apr 20 in his home village
in Kandal province.
Allegations immediately surfaced that the killing was politically-motivated, but
local authorites claimed a very different scenario - he was killed because of his
drinking problem, they suggested.
In Phnom Penh, Funcinpec officials alleged that Lyto was killed because of his connection
to Ho Sok, a senior Funcinpec official whom the CPP Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly
expressed his displeasure with.
"They want to kill me. They could not, so they killed him," said Sok.
"They tried to convince him to kill me but he said he wouldn't follow their
order, so they killed him to shut his mouth."
Sok alleged a deputy militia commander of Saang district was responsible for ordering
the attack, and vowed to pursue legal action against the man.
In Lyto's village of Khpob Leu, in Saang district, neighbors have signed a petition
complaining of a "battlefield attack" in the sleepy hamlet.
"The soldiers came heavily armed and they scared everyone. They asked us to
stay at home and not to move as long as they were around," said a woman who
signed the petition.
It all started on the afternoon of Apr 20 when Lyto, known as Phumarin in the village,
was asked by police authorities to produce a permit for a handgun and grenade he
kept in the house.
That evening six people from the commune came to his house. Among them were the deputy
commune leader and the deputy of the communal police. They asked him to show his
permit. He showed a letter signed by Khem Samnang, the deputy commander of the national
police, allowing him to have the two weapons at his house.
As the authorities were interviewing him, a group of soldiers reportedly crossed
the Bassac river, surrounded the village and took up positions around his house.
"I was coming back home from Trol Slak village and I saw soldiers with weapons
and kramas on their heads," said Mi Chandara, Lyto's cousin. "I turned
the headlight of my motorcycle on to see who they were. I went to my cousin's house
to ask him where the soldiers were from."
As he got nearer to Lyto's house, Chandara saw that his cousin was not alone.
"When I arrived I saw that he was talking to six people. I recognized them.
All of them work for the commune authorities or in the police department," he
said. "I asked Phumarin why they were here and he said that they came to arrest
him and send him to prison because he had a grenade and gun at home."
According to Chandara, Lyto was showing the authorities a permit to hold the weapons.
Chandara left to take his motorcycle home. When he got there, about 600 meters away,
he heard the sound of gunshots.
As Chandara was coming back to Lyto's house, he says that he saw soldiers running
away. The victim's mother and younger sister were also present.
According to the two women, four groups of soldiers coming from different directions
had been waiting for the end of the negotiations.
As Lyto left the table to go to the backyard, he was shot seven times instantly according
to his sister.
"The police chief, Saroeun, ran away and stood far from the scene," she
said. "I tried to grab him to see what had happened to my brother, but he just
stood far away telling me he would call for a doctor. But he knew that it was too
late. My brother died immediately."
A boat driver confirmed that nine soldiers asked him to take them across the Bassac
river after the attack at around 7 pm.
According to neighbors, several soldiers left by road and went in the direction of
Two days after the attack, commune chief Sok Bol said she had not received any reports
yet and that all the police forces who went to see Phumarin on Sunday had been ordered
to go to Tuol Krasang in a "safety camp".
"When people have a conflict they fight. There is no political reason. Phumarin
used to be drunk he talked too much," she said. "He is not a politician
why should it be a political killing?"
"He drank a lot during a Khmer New Year dance," she said. "I think
he disturbed some of the dancers. They might have been angry at him."
Lyto's 86 year-old grand father said that he lost his son during the Khmer Rouge
regime. "Phumarin supported the family. Who is going to feed the family now?"