Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - FBI could probe journalist's murder

FBI could probe journalist's murder

FBI could probe journalist's murder

Vandy Rattana

A mourner prays on Saturday before an alter for journalist Khim Sambo, who was gunned down Friday evening.


he US Federal Bureau of Investigation is ready to help Cambodian authorities probing the assassination of opposition-aligned journalist Khim Sambo, the US embassy said late Monday, warning that the brazen killing could scare people away from general elections in two weeks.

Khim Sambo and his 21 year-old son, Khath Sarin Pheata, were gunned down Friday evening outside Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium in a drive-by shooting that has shaken the capital and raised fears for press freedoms ahead of the polls.

“Our family never had any enemies or disputes with neighbors. What happened to my father was unexpected,” Khat Sarinda, the victim’s 24 year-old daughter, told the Post on Monday. 

Police have few leads, but the FBI "stands ready to provide assistance, if requested by the Cambodian government, in investigating the case," the embassy said in a statement in which it also urged Cambodian authorities "to take the necessary measures in order to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The 47 year-old, who submitted articles critical of the government written under pseudonyms to Moneaksekar Khmer, a newspaper affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, died at the scene.

His son died in the early Saturday at Ketomelea military hospital, and the two were cremated Sunday at Wat Tuol Tumpong in a ceremony attended by several hundred people.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who has condemned the killings and called for swift justice, welcomed the FBI’s offer on Tuesday.

“It would be good if we could cooperate with the FBI in investigating this case. We could trade experiences. Either way, we would not be blamed if we could not find the killers, or if we found them [critics] would not say [the suspects] are the fake killers.”

Various journalist organizations, including the Khmer Journalist Friendship Association, the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists, have expressed outrage over the killings.

Kek Galabru, president of Cambodian human rights group Licadho, also condemned the shootings as a bid to sow fear, saying “message is to scare the journalists from writing the truth” ahead of the July 27 elections.

She pointed out that Khim Sambo was the 12th journalist to be murdered since Cambodia’s first democratic election in 1993. None of the perpetrators has been convicted.

The US embassy, meanwhile, warned that the shootings, along with Sunday’s acid attack against Ngon Srun, a senior Cambodian People’s Party member, could keep people from the polls.

Ngon Srun was severely burned on the face and chest after being doused with acid by unknown assailants. Police say no criminal complaints have been filed.

“Violent, criminal acts such as this can have a chilling effect on the media, and ... risk undermining citizens’ confidence in their ability to fully participate in the electoral process in safety and security,” the embassy said.

According to Prampi Makara district police chief Yim Simony, Khim Sambo and his son were fired on five times by a man riding pillion on a motorbike as they drove away from the stadium on Monireath Boulevard.

Their motorbike kept upright for another 30 meters before crashing into a woman on a bicycle, according to several witnesses. Khim Sambo was struck twice, while Khath Sarin Pheata was hit by one bullet in the chest.

The attackers, who wore civilian clothing and made no effort to hide their faces behind sunglasses or helmets, circled back around to make sure they had hit their mark, said one witness who did not want to be named.

“After shooting, they turned around on their motorbike and looked down at his body to be sure he was dead,” the witness told the Post on Monday.

Others said they feared for their own security and refused to discuss the killings.

Khim Sambo’s murder was the first killing of a journalist since October 2003, when Chuor Chetharith, deputy editor for Funcinpec-aligned Ta Prum radio, was slain. That death was one in a slew of high-profile killings to occur in 2003 and 2004, all carried by two men on a motorbike in crowded areas.

At the time of his death Khim Sambo was also working with tycoon developer and government advisor Sok Kong, president of Sokimex, one of the largest Cambodian-owned companies.

He had extensive contacts among CPP-friendly officials in the judiciary and security forces, despite his regular contributions to the anti-ruling party Moneaksekar Khmer.

Friday’s shootings follow last month’s week-long detention of Dam Sith, Moneaksekar Khmer’s editor-in-chief and a Sam Rainsy Party candidate for the parliamentary elections.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong pressed defamation and disinformation charges against Dam Sith for publishing comments by Sam Rainsy, who alleged Hor Namhong’s involvement in Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Prime Minister Hun Sen requested that Phnom Penh Municipal Court release Dam Sith on bail amid mounting international pressure, and Hor Namhong later dropped his suit.

But his arrest was condemned by the Sam Rainsy Party as another example of harassment of the opposition by the ruling party.


  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent

  • Kingdom’s exports to US mushroom 25.94% in first five months to $2.4B

    Though Cambodia’s exports to other countries have been stalled amid the evolving Covid-19 environment, the Kingdom’s shipments to the US were worth 25.94 per cent more in the first five months of this year than they were in the year-ago period. Bilateral trade between

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the