Published: July 13, 2008
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The widow of a slain Cambodian opposition journalist urged officials Sunday to find his killers as she cremated his body and that of her son.
Khem Sambo, 47, and his 21-year-old son died after they were gunned down in a drive-by shooting Friday.
Khem Sambo reported on corruption and other social ills under the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen for the opposition newspaper Moneaseka Khmer.
“Please, catch those murderers and find justice for my husband and son,” Lay Heang said, her eyes filled with tears as she attended the cremation at a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh.
Lay Heang, 46, said she had no idea at first that her son, Khat Sarin Pheata, was also hit.
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“He called his younger brother to say ‘father was shot,'” Lay Heang said.
After the call was disconnected, “I tried to call him back but I could not get through. It did not come to my mind that my son was also hit,” she said. “I was hoping to see him have a bright future.”
The victims were riding a motorcycle when they were each shot twice by a man riding on the back of another motorcycle, police said.
Yim Simony, police chief for the Phnom Penh district where the killings occurred, said Sunday that police have no suspects in the case.
Moneaseka Khmer editor Dam Sith called the attack “the gravest threat” to his newspaper, which is affiliated with Cambodia’s main opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
A party statement said the assassination shows what happens to someone “who dares to write or argue against those with absolute power.”
Human rights groups expressed concern that the killing — the first of a Cambodian journalist in five years — threatens the climate for campaigning ahead of July 27 national elections.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 21 private groups, said in a statement it suspected the attack was linked to the many articles Khem Sambo wrote about issues such as illegal logging, illegal fishing deals and land grabbing that involved powerful government officials.
The France-based journalist group Reporters Without Borders urged Cambodian authorities to produce “quick results” in investigating the case, saying “allowing this murder to go unpunished would have a considerable impact” on the elections.