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JOURNALIST KILLED AHEAD OF ELECTIONS

A journalist working for a pro-opposition newspaper was gunned down along with his son in Phnom Penh on 12 July, just weeks before the general election, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ).

Khim Sambo was riding a motorcycle with his 21-year-old son, Khat Sarin Theada, when they were each shot twice by assassins who were also on a motorbike. Sambo died immediately while his son died later in hospital.

It's likely Sambo was killed because of his work at "Moneakseka Khmer" ("Khmer Conscience"), a newspaper linked to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, says CAPJ. He often reported on corruption, illegal logging and land grabbing by powerful government figures. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), "Moneakseka Khmer" is one of only a handful of consistently critical publications in Cambodia.

"When one who dares to write or argue against those with absolute power is assassinated, the perpetrators behind the killing are never found or tried according to the law," the Sam Rainsy Party said in a statement.

The editor of the paper, Dam Sith, was recently charged with printing allegations that Cambodia's foreign minister had ties to the former Khmer Rouge regime, reports SEAPA. The charge was later dropped. CAPJ says that the attack on Sambo came soon after Sith's release.

Sambo's death comes amid heightened violence and tension in Cambodia in the run-up to a general election on 27 July, which is expected to return Prime Minister Hun Sen to power. CAPJ says the attack is creating a "climate of fear" among journalists prior to the election.

Phnom Penh's police say they are still looking for the perpetrators. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the case is the first killing of a Cambodian journalist in five years.

Visit these links:
- SEAPA/CAPJ: http://www.seapabkk.org/
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/6bg782
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27833
- International Federation of Journalists: http://tinyurl.com/6bpb4p
- Reuters: http://tinyurl.com/5e9ryq
(16 July 2008)

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