The grieving family of a murdered Sam Rainsy Party official has dismissed suggestions that his killing was politically motivated, although opposition party members fear his relatives may be afraid to speak out.
The body of Ouk Chhan-teak, a respected deputy councillor of the Chhoeu Teal commune, was found last Wednesday in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district.
The 64-year-old had been bludgeoned to death as he returned home from patrolling the area, prompting members of the Sam Rainsy Party to suggest the killing was politically motivated, as he had been set to be voted commune chief next year.
Police, however, believe the father of four was murdered during a robbery unrelated to politics, as his motorcycle, camera and mobile phone were stolen.
A man arrested on Thursday on suspicion of the killing was being held at the Kandal provincial prison while the police investigat-ion continued, prosecutor Ouk Kim Sith said yesterday.
Choking back tears, the victim’s mother-in-law, Tao Sokleng, 56, spoke to The Post on Sunday at the family’s home in Reussey Srok village. “It is not a political issue. He was a very good man in the village. He was a just man – when something was good, he said it was good, when something was bad he said it was bad,” she said.
The murder has left Tao Sokleng’s four-year-old grandson without a father.
“I feel pity for my grandchild. He asked me who killed his father,” she said, adding that she believed that the murder was “a robbery, planned beforehand”.
That viewpoint has been echoed by village chief, Diep Soeun, who has indicated that a man arrested over the crime was a well-known troublemaker in the area.
“The Sam Rainsy Party and the Cambodian People’s Party are working very well together here,” he said.
The SRP, however, remains unconvinced. Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Ouk Chhanteak had been very popular in the commune but said he believed that “his family feels afraid”.
“His family . . . do not dare to say the reality [of the situation] because based on the [nature of the] killing it is not robbery,” Yim Sovann claimed.
Rights groups are refraining from judgment, but acknowledge that politics could have played a part in Ouk Chhanteak’s murder.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator with the rights group Adhoc, said on Sunday that the organisation would continue its own investigation in the murder.
He said the case could go either way.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, however, said: “This is an SRP habit. When someone dies in any incident, they have always accused the ruling party officials of killing the activist.
“This issue has happened many times. We do not care about such accusations; it depends on the investigation of the authorities and the court,” he added.
Regardless of the outcome of an investigation, villagers in the small community are mourning the loss of a well-known and highly respected official.
Ruessey Srok resident Cheang Kol said the murdered man had been popular in the village and had a friendly rapport with the local population.
“Based on his behaviour, no one hates him in the village,” he said. He added, however, that one drug user may have had a problem with him.
Police were unavailable to comment further but said the arrested man had confessed to the killing and that authorities were searching for two other men.