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Details sought on KNP staff's deaths

Details sought on KNP staff's deaths

S AM Rainsy is investigating reports that three of his party workers in Takeo have

been murdered.

The three men - killed separately - were involved with collecting thumbprints in

support of Rainsy's new Khmer Nation Party (KNP) prior to its Nov 9 launch in Phnom

Penh.

Rainsy said earlier this week that he had sent representatives to Takeo to investigate,

and was reluctant to comment in any detail until he heard back from them.

Several human rights workers confirmed they had heard the reports, and were either

investigating or awaiting more details.

Rainsy said he had earlier heard that:

  • One of the men had been killed in his Takeo house. After answering a knock on

    his door, he had been shot repeatedly with an automatic gun.

  • The second had been killed, also shot, while en route to Kampot province from

    Takeo.

  • The third man, identified as Trinh Pheng, had reportedly been arrested by the

    police before his death. He was allegedly dragged behind a car alive, and his body

    later dumped in the jungle.

Rainsy said the last two murders were said to have happened in remote Tramkok

district of Takeo, neighboring both Kompong Speu and Kampot provinces.

The area was considered dangerous, he said, and local authorities were believed to

have blamed the Khmer Rouge for at least one of the killings.

The three men had been collecting villagers' thumbprints - 5,000 of which from around

Cambodia were presented to the government to satisfy a requirement under the UNTAC

electoral law for political parties' registration.

While pledging the strongest of reactions if it was found that the men were targeted

because of their link to him, Rainsy said he had to remain open-minded until there

was proof of that. "I am worried but I am not accusing anyone. I want to know

what has happened, and I hope my concerns prove groundless," he said.

Meanwhile, Rainsy said he received threats in the few days before the launch of his

Khmer Nation Party. They included moto drivers who turned up at his house and told

his staff that they had "heard" from friends in the military that his party's

launch would be disrupted.

The launch was scheduled for 9am on Nov 9, but Rainsy also organized a press conference

at his house at 6:30am, in case the later event could not be held.

In any event, the 9am launch passed without incident, attended by about 1000 invited

guests.

They included the Ambassadors of the United States, Australia and Canada, and representatives

of the Thai Embassy - out of the entire diplomatic corp which was invited. The ambassadors

who attended said afterward they were demonstrating their support for multi-party

democracy in Cambodia.

But the government maintains that Rainsy has not fully met the requirements of the

UNTAC electoral law, and his party is illegal.

First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh reacted angrily to the ambassadors'

presence at the launch.

He issued a statement Nov 10 saying that, while he supported Cambodians' right to

form political parties, Rainsy's had not met the full requirements of the electoral

law.

Khmer Nation Party had "no legal standing in so far as the existing laws and

regulations are concerned" and could not be recognized by the government.

Ranariddh said he sincerely regretted the attendance of the ambassadors, who "never

stop telling us" that Cambodia should be a state of law.

"This presence can be interpreted as to endorse the act of violation of existing

rules and regulations of the Kingdom of Cambodia," the statement said.

Rainsy, meanwhile, said he had met every requirement of the law. He said the Interior

Ministry had been "misinterpreting" the UNTAC electoral law.

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