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Journalists and human right activists obtain information alleging that police chief may have been involved in journalist's murder

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to quickly create an independent commission of enquiry into the July murder of opposition journalist Khim Sambo following several reports that national police chief Hok Lundy could have been involved, and that the Cambodian police are covering up the crime.

"An investigation is already underway, but the reports implicating the Cambodian police chief are so serious that the government should lose no time in putting independent experts in charge," Reporters Without Borders said. "Doubt will persist about the government's desire to solve this murder until all the facts have been brought to light. We also urge the police chief to respond to these allegations."

The press freedom organisation added: "We also call on the US authorities to quickly publish the findings of the FBI agents who spent more than two weeks working with the Cambodian investigators on this case."

Several journalists and human rights activists have obtained credible information from people close to Sambo that the police chief, Lundy, was involved in the murder of the journalist and his 21-year-old son in Phnom Penh on 11 July 2008, two weeks before the country's general elections. Sambo wrote for "Moneakseka Khmer" ("Khmer Conscience"), an opposition Khmer-language daily.

People close to the journalist who may have information about the murder have said that they are too afraid to speak to the investigators because they suspect police are involved.

The Hong Kong-based "South China Morning Post" ran a lengthy story on Sambo's murder. It quoted an independent investigator who said the perpetrators, who were probably contract killers, made no attempt to cover their faces, suggesting they were confident they would be protected by the people who had hired them.

A human rights activist found that the witnesses of the murder have been intimidated and refuse to say what they saw. The Phnom Penh police chief meanwhile issued a statement saying, "An FBI official agrees on the fact that the murders were an act of revenge against the journalist's son."

The FBI agents working on the case left Cambodia a few days after the "South China Morning Post" ran its story. Phnom Penh-based news media reported that the FBI had finished their investigation. But it is disturbing that the FBI has ended its participation in the investigation now, when officials originally said the agents would stay until the case was solved.

Sambo often wrote about corruption and nepotism in the ruling Cambodia People's Party. But one story in particular, which he wrote under the pseudonym of Srey Ka, has caught the attention of journalists and human rights activists who have studied the case. Less than two weeks before his murder, Sambo wrote a detailed report about a "senior police official" who was not named but was easily identifiable to loyal readers of the newspaper.

Described as "one of the country's most dangerous men," this police officer is alleged to have gone to a casino in Bavat, near the Vietnamese border, on 25 June, lost all his money, used threats to obtain credit from the casino and arrested staff when they refused to lend him more, according to Sambo's report.

Lundy was a governor of the Svay Rieng province before he was named national police chief in 1994. He has been a Hun Sen associate since 1979 and one of his daughters is married to the prime minister's son. Lundy "represents the absolute worst that Cambodia has to offer," Human Rights Watch said about him last year. In 2006, a former Phnom Penh police chief accused him of being involved in at least 70 extrajudicial executions.

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