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NGOs to check into massacre report

NGOs to check into massacre report

MYSTERY surrounds the reported massacre of twenty two people in a remote cave on

an island in Koh Kong province.

The Khmer language newspaper Chakraval wrote on April 24 that the bodies were discovered

on Koh Andeuk (Turtle Island) in late February.

The report, which included a photograph of the corpses, said all 22 had been bound

and blindfolded and had suffered stab and gunshot wounds.

The paper speculated that the bodies were those of pirates who had been herded together

and executed by authorities in a mass extra-judicial killing.

The paper also suggested that the bodies could be of people kidnapped and robbed

by pirates, who then killed them; or perhaps of Funcinpec cadres who were to become

commune and district chiefs.

However, a source quoted by Chakraval said the killings were not politically motivated.

The source said the bodies were all Khmer and the killings were probably linked to

illegal logging.

However, sources within the Interior Ministry were not aware of any investigation

into the massacre.

The head of criminal police at the Ministry, Thong Lim, said he was waiting for instructions

to begin an inquiry but so far the only information he had came from the Khmer press.

The ministry's spokesman, Heng Hak, said the relevant authority was seeking permission

to begin investigations in Koh Kong but was unable to confirm when an inquiry would

begin.

"It's an internal affair, but I've asked the criminal section to clarify this

matter.

"I don't know, but I don't think there were 22 bodies," he said.

However, human rights groups have expressed concern that an inquiry has not been

mounted some two months after the alleged discovery of the bodies.

Thun Saray, president of the local human rights NGO, ADHOC, said the massacre had

been included as a special agenda item for consideration by the Human Rights Action

Committee.

He said the Action Committee was likely to send a team of investigators to Koh Kong

who would return to Phnom Penh with their findings when it had finished.

"[But] we urge an investigation from the Interior Ministry," he said, "and

we will provide what information we can from our own inquiries."

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