C AMBODIAN People's Party politicians who gathered for the funeral of Kov Samuth -
the brother-in-law of Hun Sen's wife - signed a petition supporting the Second Prime
Minister and accused "extremist politicians" for Samuth's murder.
Samuth - a former chief body guard for Hun Sen and known to be personally close to
the Second Prime Minister - was gunned down early morning Nov19 outside a Norodom
Boulevard restaurant where he had just finished breakfast. He was struck by six bullets
in what an independent observer described as a professional-style "hit".
The motivation for the killing remains unclear - in addition to his political connections,
Samuth was a serving Colonel with the economic police and was known to be active
in Cambodia's often rough-and-tumble business world.
"The killer was fairly confident that nothing would happen to him... that suggests
he knew he was protected. Protected by rich businessmen or political figures, who
knows?" said one human rights worker.
However, the second prime Minister was quick to connect the killing with recent political
events. In an emotional televised speech just hours after the shooting, Hun Sen linked
the murder to the recent defection of alleged Khmer Rouge terrorists.
"The assassination of my brother this morning [may tempt the] conclusion that
it is a... pressure directed at the breakaway brothers," he said.
"Why? Because even the life of Hun Sen's brother can't be protected."
Clandestine Khmer Rouge radio was quick to comment on the murder - a broadcast Nov
21 claimed the killing was the first of a string of attacks targeting CPP figures,
including Hun Sen.
Other CPP leaders listed for assassination, according to the broadcast, included
Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Defense Minister Tea Banh, National Assembly President
Chea Sim, RCAF Deputy Chief of Staff Pol Saroeun and National Police Chief Hok Lundi.by
TRAFFIC drew to a near standstill on Monivong Blvd, close to the intersection with
Sihanouk, as the procession of barefoot monks passed.
The one with the spectacles - standing second in a file of alms-taking monks - caught
almost everyone's eye. He was a perfectly ordinary looking monk, but for his trade-mark
glasses which gave him away.
These were the only trace of his life as one of Cambodia's most vociferous government
critics, which he had given up Nov 4 when he traded-in his politician's suit for
the revered robes of a Buddhist.
The 17th day in the life of monastic life of Sam Rainsy had started at 6am sharp,
as it had on the 16 days which preceded it. He had washed, done a short prayer, and
breakfasted on alms.
"The first few days were the most difficult part of my time here," the
leader of the opposition Khmer Nation Party said at Wat Botum in an interview which
he had insisted was strictly free of politics.
"Here, I lead an austere life and do not possess a thing - I live on public
"It is an enlightening and humbling experience not only to live off the charity
of other people, but to incite them to be generous," Rainsy said. "I have
found the poorest people to be among the most giving."
At 8am, together with his fellow monks, he had locked himself into the lotus position
for an hour of meditation.
"Meditation helps me to remain calm," he said.
"This is important because it helps one to put everything else into perspective."
When Rainsy meditates, he centers his breathing, chasing away thoughts and feelings
which go against the 10 cardinal precepts of Buddhism: Not to kill, steal or lie,
to be chaste, to abstain from alcohol, not to wear jewelry or perfume, to not seek
out entertainment, to fast from noon till the next morning, to sleep on hard surfaces,
and to not accept any money.
He said he was compelled to also observe 227 more subtle precepts, including not
to admire oneself in a mirror.
So what is one of Cambodia's most controversial politicians doing in the wat anyway?
Rainsy delivers a suitably Buddhist reply.
"I am doing this now to express my gratitude to my parents, notably for my mother
who is getting very old and whose health is declining sharply," he said, adding
that his mother, who lives in France, was currently visiting Phnom Penh.
Rainsy is by no means the only politician to seek spiritual guidance by turning -
albeit briefly - into a monk. Prince Norodom Sirivudh served a stint in the monkhood
last year, while the pressures of public office have so far delayed First Prime Minister
Prince Ranariddh's plans to follow suit.
Rainsy, however, had not completely given up the accouterments of a Cambodian politician.
As he joined a procession of monks on their rounds, four of his bodyguards were never
And later, when Rainsy retired after lunch to his room at the wat to scrutinize Buddhist
texts, the bodyguards would retire to the shade of a tree at the pagoda to scrutinize
their cards in a lively game which would last till sunset.