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Third SRP commune candidate murdered

Third SRP commune candidate murdered

ANOTHER Sam Rainsy Party candidate for the February, 2002 commune elections has been

murdered.

Sam Sophear, 30, was ambushed and severely beaten by five men in Battambang November

5. Sophear's brother, who was with him at the time, escaped and raised the alarm

but it was too late for the aspiring politician, who died in hospital four hours

later.

The Svay Por commune candidate was the fourth candidate to be murdered this year

- three were from the SRP while the other was from Funcinpec.

The three previous deaths were officially ascribed to variations on the theme of

witchcraft, personal vendettas or banditry. The Human Rights Action Committee, however

maintained that at least one case, the killing of SRP candidate Uch Horn, was politically

motivated.

Battambang's Chief of Police, Heng Chantha, said the latest killing was motivated

by robbery and that it was only a coincidence that Sophear was an election candidate.

Sophear, a masseur, was on his way to see a client when he and his brother were attacked

for their motorbike, Chantha said.

However, Cheam Chany, SRP MP for Battambang, said he was "100 percent certain"

the killing was politically motivated.

"If it was a case of robbery then why did they leave Sophear's motorbike behind

and flee?" he asked.

Chany said that the SRP had asked Battambang police and the National Election Committee

to investigate the attack.

Chantha was adamant that the investigation would focus on robbery as the motive,

adding that the only reason the motorbike was not stolen was that it had run out

of petrol at the time of the attack.

The Provincial Action Committee, comprised of human rights NGO's Licadho, Adhoc,

Vigilance and Kampuchea Krom, will conduct a joint investigation of the killing,

said a Licadho spokesperson.

The murder comes just days after the SRP claimed that three candidates in Preah Vihear

fled their homes after threats from the commune police chief. The three - Koeut Chhon,

Moeurn Voeurn and Sap Saut - had been forbidden to use walkie-talkies and were

told to dismantle radio equipment or risk arrest, according to an SRP statement.

A November 7 SRP statement on Sophear's killing concluded: "In a country like

Cambodia which has been ruled by communists, the real author of killing, intimidation

or acts of violence against the opposition members ... are not subject to any punishment".

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