By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Two FBI agents were sent home after investigating the murder of journalist, Khim Sambo, and his 21 year-old son. Months after the death of Sambo and international pressure to solve the case, the United States offered the Cambodian government FBI assistance. However, the two FBI agents, who were helping Cambodian police on the case, pulled-out after 2 weeks of investigation.
The United States government was ambiguous on whether the withdraw was voluntary, but they felt the investigation was not going on the right track. Human rights organizations say the FBI agent’s departure is a negative development in efforts to solve Khim Sambo’s case. John Johnson, the Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, says he’s aware of human rights groups’ concern of police cover-up.
Sambo and his son were killed back in July. They were on their way back from working-out at an Olympic stadium in central Phnom Penh when a man riding on the back of a motorcycle fired upon them numerous times. Sambo died at the scene and his son died in the hospital the next day.
Brad Adams, the director of the Asia department at Human Rights Watch, said, “As in previous pre-election periods, this killing appears to be intended to send a message not to engage in opposition politics.”
Sambo had been a reporter for the Khmer Conscience, a newspaper affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). Most other media in the country is dominated and controlled by the government or ruling party, Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Khim Sambo was known for writing about corruption and nepotism in the CPP. Less than two weeks leading up to Sambo’s death, he was reporting on national police chief, Hok Lundy. Sambo described Lundy as “one of the country’s most dangerous men.” According to Sambo’s report, Lundy allegedly went to a casino in Bavat and threatened to arrest the staff when they refused to lend him more credit after he lost his money.
Sambo’s investigation seems to be stalling. 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 Press Freedom Organization added a 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.” But the US government has not commented on the return of the FBI agents saying that it is an ongoing investigation.
For more information, please see:
Australia Broadcasting Corporation – FBI Continues to Investigate – 17 October 2008
Reports Without Borders – Who Masterminded Journalist Khim Sambo’s Murder? FBI Pulls Out of Investigation After Press Revelations – 15 October 2008
Human Rights Watch – Cambodia: Murder of Journalist Jolts Run-Up to Election– 16 July 2008