Atrocities repel poll sponsors

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 October, 1997, 12:00am

THE failure of the Cambodian Government to investigate up to 70 politically motivated executions has jeopardised international aid and may scuttle the prospect of credible elections next year, according to diplomats.

This week's exhumation of the bodies of two senior military officials from ousted first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh's Funcinpec party has resurrected the issue of political violence as a major concern for donors who are being asked to provide about US$21 million (HK$162.3 million) in electoral aid.

'We've been preoccupied with the legislative framework for elections, but we have not forgotten the Government's promise to bring the perpetrators of all these killings to justice,' one Association of Southeast Asian Nations diplomat said. 'Cambodia can have the best election laws in the world but if people can kill political opponents with impunity, what does that say about the prospects for a free and fair election?' the diplomat asked.

The decomposed body of Krouch Yoeum, formerly the third-highest ranking Funcinpec Ministry of Defence official, was recovered from a grave at Odong, northwest of the capital, on Wednesday. He had been shot in the head and chest, his legs were bound and his hands cut off, leading investigators to conclude he had been viciously tortured.

A second body, believed to the that of Funcinpec intelligence chief Chao Sambath, was located nearby. He had been shot three times in the head.

A United Nations human rights investigator said the UN had confirmed 51 extrajudicial killings in Cambodia since early July. He said investigations were continuing into 19 more suspected political killings, but the real number could total 'more than 100'.

'Second Prime Minister Hun Sen made a promise the Government would follow up these killings and set up an inter-ministerial investigation committee just before he visited the UN in September,' the investigator said.

'The Government knows at least some of the people responsible, but nothing has happened. The committee is just window dressing, rhetoric designed to trick the international community.' Government officials were either unavailable or unwilling to comment.

Dr Peter Schier, the permanent representative of Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Cambodia, agreed that little progress had been made.

'Three weeks ago, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said he knew who killed Ho Sok but still no arrest has been made,' Dr Schier said, referring to a senior Funcinpec official killed on July 8 while in custody.

Dr Schier said the Government's apparent lack of will to bring the killers to justice only contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation.