Officer With Royalist Links Reported Shot

A Funcinpec security official was reportedly gunned down Saturday night just east of Phnom Penh, a party official said Sunday.

The killing, however, hadn’t been confirmed as of Sunday.

Chea Vutha, described as a lieutenant colonel, was shot dead at about 8 pm near his house in Kien Svay district, Kandal pro­vince, Funcinpec official Mu Sochua said on Sunday evening.

“We think this is politically motivated,” Mu Sochua said. “Before he was killed, he reportedly told his friends that he had received many death threats.”

A human rights worker said he had heard about the murder and was looking into the case, but cautioned that the body hadn’t yet been seen to confirm its identity. The rights worker said he heard that Chea Vutha was headed home on his motorcycle from a Funcinpec meeting at the time.

Interior co-Min­ister You Hock­ry said Sunday evening that he had been told that morning of the apparent killing, but hadn’t had time to investigate it. “I have heard about this, but I didn’t see the body.”

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said Sunday night he had no confirmation from area police officials.

Mu Sochua said Chea Vutha was a lieutenant colonel working at the Pich Nil Jungle Training School in Kampot pro­vince.

But a Western military analyst said that Chea Vutha had been relieved from his position as a deputy of the military training center prior to last July and that his rank had been reduced to captain.

“During the fighting, he be­came one of [deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Rana­riddh’s] bodyguards,” the analyst said. After the fighting, “he left the mainstream of RCAF and entered the special forces at the Ministry of Interior.”

Earlier this month, a top Fun­cinpec police general, Kim Sang, was gunned down while driving his car on a side street near Pochentong Boulevard, just one hour before the start of the first trial of Prince Ranariddh.

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