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Candidate's killing sparks fears

Candidate's killing sparks fears

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.

"I'm afraid

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

killing.

"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.

Chea

Vannath, President of the Centre for Social Development (CSD) said the killing

indicated the CPP's unwillingness to share power even at commune

level.

"[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

tolerate [it]."

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.

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