Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP denies systematic murder campaign

CPP denies systematic murder campaign

CPP denies systematic murder campaign

A WAVE of extra-judicial killings, detainment of provincial Funcinpec officials,

torture of captured troops, and ongoing harassment of Funcinpec party members has

followed in the wake of the violent clashes of July 5 and 6, according to human rights

investigators.

Senior CPP officials have denied the existence of a "campaign" to intimidate

members of Funcinpec and opposition parties and would confirm only one death in custody,

that of Ho Sok, Secretary of State for Interior.

"If any Funcinpec officials were killed it's because of the clash not because

they were killed after capture," said Sar Kheng, co-Minister of Interior.

"There was no campaign to kill these people. The bullet has no eyes. Maybe they

died in the fighting," said Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

Human rights workers are investigating reports, based on eyewitness accounts and

corroborating evidence, that at least 30 Funcinpec officials were executed after

their arrest by government troops.

"We are currently investigating allegations of at least 30 and up to 47 cases

of suspected executions in custody," said a UN official.

Among those believed to have been the victims of extra-judicial killings are senior

Funcinpec military leaders, Generals Chao Sambath, Kroch Yoeum, Maen Bun Thon and

Ly Seng Hong.

"There is extremely strong evidence that they were taken into custody and then

executed," said one rights worker.

While some of the killings may have been the result of revenge rather than deliberate

policy, the fact that the victims died after their capture by government forces makes

the government accountable, said the rights worker.

"So long as the killings took place in the custody of state agents then the

state must take full responsibility," he said.

According to Interior Ministry officials, Ho Sok was killed by "an unidentified

and angry gunman" in a first floor office at the ministry after he was apprehended

around 4 pm on July 7.

Officials were confident that an investigation committee set up to find Ho Sok's

killer would be successful. "It's not hard [to find the killer], not as hard

as the grenade attack," said Interior Ministry spokesman, Khieu Sopheak.

The official also scotched reports that senior CPP officials were implicated in the

killing.

"It was not a high ranking official, they know about the law. They make rumors

that it was people close to Hun Sen to destabilize the situation.

"This is psychological warfare, we have experienced this since 1979," said

the official.

Human rights investigators have also confirmed the arrests of close to 200 Funcinpec

party officials in five provinces - Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Battambang, Prey Veng

and Kampong Speu. The majority of these people have subsequently been released.

In addition, over 600 people accused of being "illegally recruited soldiers"

or "anarchic forces" had been detained for "re-education", reported

rights workers.

Interior ministry spokesman, Khieu Sopheak, said that the detentions had not been

directed at Funcinpec members specifically but were part of a government operation

to "wipe out" illegally armed forces.

Provincial authorities had been instructed "not to intimidate, harass or threaten

our Funcinpec brothers and sisters" in a July 8 directive from Sar Kheng, he

said.

Other party members had been confined to their homes during the fighting for their

own safety, said Secretary of State for Information, Khieu Kanharith.

"People were assigned to their own house for security and to be sure they were

not in trouble," the official said.

UN officials have already uncovered evidence that some soldiers captured after the

fighting around Phnom Penh July 5 and 6 have been subjected to torture.

"They were blindfolded, their hands tied behind their backs and were beaten

until they confessed that they were part of a special group brought to Phnom Penh

to fight against Hun Sen," said a UN official.

Thirty prisoners were held for 10 days in a two by six meter cell at Kambol, the

base for the 911 division, an Indonesian-trained elite paratroop regiment, according

to the official.

During their detention, the soldiers had to sleep standing up and were forced to

drink from and wash in a pond used for sewage.

"We found this by luck, one would be naive not to assume there are not other

places like this. This is clearly systematically and organized torture carried out

with the full knowledge of the senior military officials," said the official.

Rights workers also cite a range of other acts of intimidation in recent weeks. Funcinpec

and opposition newspapers have been visited by police, party offices looted and signboards

torn down. Police conducting house-to-house searches for illegal weapons have also

checked for residents' political affiliation.

Villagers in rural areas are forbidden to listen to Voice of America radio, according

to one local human rights worker.

These developments - added to the reported extra-judicial executions, torture and

the detention of Funcinpec members - have left observers with grave fears for the

future of political freedom in Cambodia.

"It opens the door for persecution. Anyone who questions the regime can be dubbed

as 'anarchic forces' and taken away. And that is what's happening," said one

observer.

"There is a pattern of arrests and violence. When you put it together, the bottom

line is that the CPP is consolidating its position and eliminating any opposition

whatsoever," he warned.

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