The Mekong Times
The bodies of Moneaksekar Khmer reporter Khim Sambo and his son, Khat Sarinpheata, shot dead by unidentified assailants Friday evening, were cremated Saturday in Phnom Penh’s Toul Tompoung pagoda. Around 300 government officials, civil servants, media and relatives attended the ceremony.
The murderers are still at large, with authorities claiming to be mystified by the assassination, with less than a fortnight before the July 27 national election.
Khim Sambo and his son were killed as they left Olympic stadium at about 7 pm Friday. Khim Sambo was killed instantly by two gunshot wounds to the abdomen. His son, Khat Sarinpheata, was shot once in the back, dying in Calmette hospital about five hours later.
Officials have denounced the killing, vowing to bring those responsible to justice. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) branded the murder a “political threat” in an official statement released Saturday.
SRP Parliamentarian Yim Sovann told journalists at the cremation ceremony that the government has yet to find the real murderers of Chea Vichea, president of Cambodia’s Free Trade Union of Workers, and Om Ratsadi, a former Funcinpec parliamentarian.
“The shooting by unknown persons of Khim Sambo and his son is a threat against SRP supporters because he is the writer of Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper, of which Dam Sith is editor-in-chief – he is also an SRP parliamentary candidate,” he said.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith condemned the killing. “We cannot forgive them [the murderers] when Cambodia is holding an election and needs calm,” he said.
The Cambodian Club of Journalists (CCJ) also denounced the killing, expressing concerns over freedom of speech and the safety of Cambodian journalists in an official statement.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) regards the shooting as a threat against impartial news reporting. A CHRAC statement noted that that Khim Sombo’s writing focused on politics, election irregularities, deforestation and land encroachment.
Yim Symony, chief of police for 7 Makara District where the killing took place, said authorities are collecting evidence but cannot find any motive.
Khim Sombo’s boss, Moneaksekar Khmer Editor-in-Chief Dam Sith was recently released on bail after a widely-criticized detention resulting from a lawsuit filed by Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong. Hor Namhong accused both Dam Sith and Sam Rainsy of defamation and misinformation over the latter’s allegations that Hor Namhong was head of the Khmer Rouge’s infamous Boeung Trabek “reeducation center.”
“I still struggle against all problems so that my newspaper can move on, despite the murder of my journalist,” Dam Sith said. “I’m not intimidated.”