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Wife of Cambodian opposition supporter mulls compensation to drop murder case

The wife of a slain supporter of Cambodia’s Candlelight Party said Tuesday she has rejected a compensation offer of U.S. $7,000 from the alleged assailant in exchange for dropping the criminal case, but has said she would consider accepting a larger sum because she doesn’t have money for her husband’s funeral.

Wen Kimyi also urged police to arrest the suspect who shot dead her husband, 49-year-old Po Hin Lean, early in the morning of Oct. 16 while he was on his way to go fishing.

She told RFA that police in Ou Reang Ov district of Chak commune in Tbong Khmum province, where her family lives, summoned her to the police station and told her that the suspect offered to pay her if she would drop charges. 

The widow said she wants the money, but that her family also wants justice.

“The police said there were two suspects, one of whom had the gun that killed him,” Wen Kimyi said. “I didn’t get a chance to see the suspect to ask [the reasons]. I will accept the compensation because I don’t have money for the funeral. But I won’t accept $7,000; I will need $15,000.”

Police told her that the suspect is a “security guard” or “neighborhood watchman” for the commune, but declined to disclose where he put the weapon or his motive for the shooting.

Cambodia’s Ministry of the Interior established a network of such local guards to provide security to villagers in communes and districts, though they are not supposed to carry weapons. 

RFA could not reach Vong Sophy, the police chief of Ou Reang Ov district, or On Sam On, police chief of Chak commune for comment on Tuesday.

‘Embarrassing for the authorities’

Leng Seng Han, a provincial coordinator for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, also known as ADHOC, said the murder cannot be resolved through compensation and that the suspect must be brought to justice.

“It is wrong for [police] to be involved in meditation outside the court,” he said. 

 Eng Sroy, a Police Academy lecturer and president of the Candlelight Party​ working group in Tbong Khmum province, said he is dismayed that authorities have not yet apprehended the suspects and urged them to conduct a transparent investigation to show they are providing good security.

 “It is embarrassing for the authorities if they can’t arrest the suspects,” he said. “The authorities must differentiate between black and white and remain neutral during the investigation.” 

There have been numerous physical attacks this year on activists and supporters of the Candlelight Party, an opposition party that emerged from the ashes of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was banned and dissolved by Cambodia’s Supreme Court in November 2017.

This April, Candlelight Party candidate Khorn Tun was attacked by unidentified men who threw rocks at her home in Tbong Khmum province during the campaign period for local elections held in June. Prak Seyha, a party youth leader for Phnom Penh’s Kamboul district, was attacked and beaten by a mob.

Those incidents followed the death of Phnom Penh Candlelight candidate Choeun Sarim, who was attacked from behind and killed in traffic while riding a motorbike, following threats and assaults.

The killing of the man in this case, Po Hin Lean, came a day before Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to arrest Sam Rainsy, head of the banned CNRP, who has lived in exile in France since 2015, if he returns to Cambodia. 

Sam Rainsy, 73, was sentenced in absentia in March 2021 to 25 years in jail for what supporters say was a politically motivated charge of attempting to overthrow the government.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985, made the comment at a graduation ceremony where he spoke, in response to recent remarks by Sam Rainsy criticizing the strongman’s plans to appoint his son, Hun Manet, as his replacement.

Translated by Samean Yun for RFA Khmer. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.