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Cambodia 12 July 2008

Opposition newspaper reporter gunned down two weeks before general elections

Reporters Without Borders hopes the authorities will quickly solve yesterday’s murder of reporter Khim Sam Bo, 47, and his son, Khat Sarin Pheata, 21. Khim Sam Bo worked for Moneakseka Khmer (“Khmer Conscience”), a Khmer-language daily affiliated to the Sam Rainsy Party, Cambodia’s main opposition group. His murder came two weeks ahead of general elections.

“Khim Sam Bo had written about corruption cases allegedly involving leading government associates and his editor, Dam Sith, was recently charged with libelling foreign minister Hor Namhong,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The motive for the murder has yet to be established but the context suggests it could have been a reprisal against a person who was both a reporter and an opposition activist.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Allowing this murder to go unpunished would have a considerable impact on the 27 July elections and we therefore hope the investigation will produce quick results. We offer our condolences to the victims’ family.”

Khat Sarin Pheata collected his father from Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium at around 7 p.m. yesterday after first calling in at the newspaper. As they left the stadium together on a motorcycle, they were pursued by two individuals who were also on a motorcycle. One of them fired five shots. Khim Sam Bo was hit three times and died on the spot, while his son was hit in the chest and died after being taken to hospital.

The Sam Rainsy Party reacted quickly, suggesting the double murder was politically motivated. Dam Sith, Moneakseka Khmer’s editor, said he thought Khim Sam Bo was killed because of his work as a journalist. He had worked for the newspaper since 1997.

Journalists are rarely murdered in Cambodia. The most recent case of a journalist being killed in connection with his work was that of Chuor Chetharith, the deputy editor of Ta Prum, a radio station linked to the opposition royalist party FUNCINPEC, who was gunned down on 18 October 2003 in Phnom Penh.

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