US Condemns Killing of Cambodian Journalist - 2003-10-19

The United States is deploring the killing of a Cambodian journalist whose death Saturday has further stalled talks on forming a new government in Phnom Penh. American officials are warning against a "culture of impunity" in the Southeast Asian country.

The United States is strongly condemning the fatal shooting of Cambodian radio journalist Chour Chetharith and calling on authorities in Phnom Penh to take action to investigate the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Mr. Chetharith, a reporter for the Ta Prom Radio, which is aligned with the royalist FUNCINPEC political party, was shot and killed in the Cambodian capital Saturday by two men on a motorbike.

His death prompted opposition parties to call off a meeting planned for Monday with the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party on forming a new government based on the country's July 27 national elections.

A State Department statement given to reporters traveling with Mr. Powell in Bangkok deplored political violence in Cambodia, including the "cowardly" murder of Mr. Chetharith, which it said imperils the rights of all Cambodians and jeopardizes progress toward a more peaceful democratic and prosperous country.

In calling for an "effective" investigation of the killing and steps to ensure the security of other Cambodian journalists, the State Department said a "culture of impunity" in Cambodia "must not be tolerated."

Noting efforts under way to form a new government, the U.S. statement said it is "essential" that party leaders be able to do so in an environment free of intimidation and violence.

The Cambodian Peoples Party won the most votes in the July voting but did not get the two-thirds majority needed to form a government on its own.

The FUNCINPEC party, which was the second-place finisher, and the opposition Sam Rainsy party, have refused to form a government that would keep Prime Minister Hun Sen as prime minister, and he has refused to step down.

No arrests have been made in Saturday's killing. A grenade attack last week killed an activist from the Sam Rainsy party and a similar attack late last month claimed the lives of two FUNCINPEC party members.

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