The June 30 murder of Uch Horn, a Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) commune council
candidate in Kompong Speu, has prompted fears of escalating political violence
ahead of the Feb 3, 2002 commune elections.
Dr. Lao Mong Hay, Executive
Director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, called Uch Horn's death a
political killing directly related to the coming elections.
it could just be one of a series to follow due to the prevailing atmosphere of
impunity," Mong Hay said.
Uch Horn, who had complained of death threats
since joining the SRP in April 2000, was shot seven times while bathing in a
pond 200 meters from his home.
Provincial police authorities' initial
linking of the murder of the 52-year-old SRP candidate for Baset commune council
in Kampong Speu's Baset district to rumors that he was a sorcerer have been
dismissed by the human rights group Adhoc.
"He came to our office on June
18 to complain that he was being threatened to stop his activities in the
commune," said Thun Saray, Adhoc President. "That can't just be a coincidence.
[His killing] suggests the political atmosphere in the Kingdom is still not
conducive to peaceful, free and fair elections."
Adhoc's July 5
preliminary report on the crime links it to three still-unidentified individuals
and criticizes the police's failure to arrive on the scene until a day after the
"The killing and frequent reports of threats and intimidation of
voters and opposition party candidates particularly in the provinces in fact
indicate the perpetuation of a climate of fear," Mong Hay said.
Vannath, President of the Centre for Social Development (CSD) said the killing
indicated the CPP's unwillingness to share power even at commune
"[such] violence is often the result of a political party's
attempt to wrest absolute control," Vannath said. "When that position is
threatened by the [rising] popularity of someone else, the politicians can not
In its 2000 report Human Rights Watch listed scores of
cases of commune-election related political violence, most of it directed
against SRP members.
These included the Feb 3 killings of SRP member Chim
Chhoun, the June 3, 2000 killing of Funcinpec's Prak Chhien in Kampot, for which
the incumbent CPP commune chief was arrested and convicted as well as the August
17, 2000 murder of the SRP's Khhim Nhak in Kampong Cham.