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Cambodian Journalist Shot Dead


A prominent Cambodian journalist who worked for a pro-opposition newspaper was shot dead Friday along with his son in the capital Phnom Penh. Human rights groups say that the attack is meant to intimidate journalists and the public ahead of Cambodia's upcoming general elections while the government has condemned the killing and pledged to catch the killers. Rory Byrne has this report for VOA from Phnom Penh.


Khem Sambo and his 21-year-old son were riding a motorcycle Friday afternoon when they were each shot twice by a man on another motorcycle. They both died later in hospital.

Sambo, 47, reported on corruption, land grabbing and other social issues in Cambodia for the opposition newspaper Moneaseka Khmer.

Human rights advocate Theary Seng says that the killings have all the hallmarks of a political assassination.

"He's a well known journalist with an opposition voice who has been very critical of the government. It was intentional because there were at least five bullets sprayed on this man so it has all the indications of a political assassination," said Seng.

The killings of Sambo and his son follow at least half a dozen other killings in recent months that are thought to be politically motivated. They come just two weeks before Cambodia's national elections and are intended to send a message to voters, says Seng.

"There is a pattern of killings," he said. "The killings are concentrated a few months before the elections. The other pattern is that it's done in broad daylight, its done in a public space, so that the public can get the message which is: be careful if you go to a voting booth on the 27th."

Human rights groups say that Sambo is the 12th journalist to have been killed for his work since 1992. None of the killers have been found. Speaking to reporters in Phnom Penh Saturday Cambodian information Minister Khieu Kanharith condemned the killings and said that the "culprits cannot be forgiven and must be found."

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