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Motive still unknown in shooting of radio star

Motive still unknown in shooting of radio star

F UNCINPEC radio's star disc jockey Ek Mongkul's last words on his cellphone to the

station's deputy director before he lost consciousness were: "Help me. Someone's

shot me."

"The line went dead and I tried to call him back three times," deputy director

Chhim Bunthon said. "The third time a policeman answered and said the owner

[of the phone] had been shot."

Mongkul got hit four times from close range - almost certainly by two gunmen described

as "amateurs" by investigating police - as he was driving behind the Royal

Palace Feb 8.

He was lucky. One bullet passed within two centimeters of his heart; a second hit

his lung; one went through his neck and a fourth through his arm. "A professional

[gunman] would have hit his mark first shot," said one policeman.

Mongkul is to recover from his injuries at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, and

is confident he'll be back behind the microphone inside three months.

Speaking to the Post from his hospital bed in Bangkok, Mongkul said there had been

no warning before the shooting.

"I just left my office. I heard motorcycle behind me and I was shot."

Mongkul was taken to Calmette hospital twenty minutes after being shot, and that

afternoon received a procession of worried Funcinpec chiefs. Prime Minister Prince

Norodom Ranariddh called his Chief of Cabinet Ly Thuch from Paris to make sure that

everything was being prepared for Mongkul's evacuation to Bangkok.

"He is a true nationalist who fought for the independence and unity of the country,"

said Thuch.

"He is not a political person," said Bunthon. "He is only an announcer

and his job is to make people happy by joking on the radio."

Mongkul said: "I never did anything bad to anyone. A lot of people like my program.

Maybe [the shooting] was linked to my popularity."

An Interior Ministry official said "we are investigating both motivations -

political and personal".

A few days before the shooting, Mongkul read an article on his twice-daily "Press

Opinion" radio slot about the government's criticisms of Vietnamese encroachment

along the eastern border. Like all the newspaper articles Mongkul reads on air, it

was chosen by the station's second deputy director Tum Vandet. Mongkul was said to

have explained to the audience why Ranariddh reacted in the way he did.

"Ek Mongkul tried to explain that the government had to resolve this problem.

Maybe he said too much and people misunderstood what he said," said one radio

station staffer who asked not to be named.

However, others point out that his show was almost risqué. Some say he flirted

with women callers, from whom he recieved messages on the air and in letters by the

hundreds.

"He is a popular man. I have always been worried about his security. I would

have like him to get two bodyguards," said Bunthon, "but he never accepted."

"I was worried about robbers. People could have thought that he is rich because

he is popular."

Mongkul's wife, Chealy Sakhon, said that some people could have been jealous about

her husband's popularity. "Someone doing the same job as him may have become

jealous."

Some of the Funcinpec radio staff noted that rivalry among personalities within the

station existed. "Even if everybody had been working for ten years together,

some rivalry could appear as some are more popular than the others, " said one

employee.

Chealy Sakhon said her husband had never said he was worried for his safety, even

though he usually was accompanied home by a couple of friends. "If there is

adequate security I will not change my job. It is my talent," said Mongkul.

"And I miss my audience who listen to me day and night."

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