Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Death of CNRP activist sparks NGO investigations

Sam Bopha, 49, was being driven to the commune police station over an alleged domestic violence incident in Kompong Ro district’s Tnort commune when she fell and struck her head on the ground. Supplied

Rights groups say they are looking into the case of a former opposition CNRP activist who died on Wednesday after falling from a police motorbike while being taken into police custody in Svay Rieng province.

Sam Bopha, 49, was being driven to the commune police station over an alleged domestic violence incident in Kompong Ro district’s Tnort commune when she fell and struck her head on the ground.

Yeap Channy, 22, the victim’s son, said her mother had had a dispute with her husband and father-in-law about family issues two days before the incident.

Police arrived two days later alleging she had used violence against them, Channy said.

“My mother told them she did not want go with them, and they called in several other officers including some officers in civilian clothes and some in police uniform to bring my mother to the commune police office,” he said.

After about half a kilometer, Bopha fell off the police motorbike and struck her head on the ground, knocking her unconscious, he said.

He and his uncle Sam Dina were following the police on their own motorbikes. They took Bopha to the commune health center, then to the Svay Teap district referral hospital, and finally to the provincial hospital. When they arrived at the provincial hospital, doctors said she was already dead, Channy said.

Rights groups Licadho and Adhoc said they would investigate the case in more detail.

Koeut Phally, a monitor for Adhoc, said Bopha was accused of wielding an ax and knife during the family dispute, though some relatives rejected the account.

The criminal complaint was filed by Bopha’s father-in-law, Hun Yeap, a former CNRP deputy commune chief who had made a “confession” just a few days earlier against acting party leader Sam Rainsy, who has pledged to attempt to return to the country from exile on Nov. 9.

Dozens of former CNRP members have been arrested ahead of Rainsy’s promised return, with the government saying support for Rainsy amounts to backing a coup attempt. The CNRP was dissolved in November 2017 after party president Kem Sokha was arrested for allegedly working with the U.S. to topple the government. Sokha, who denies the accusations, remains under de facto house arrest in Phnom Penh.

“I think that this case could be involved with the political issue,” Phally said.

Nouth Bopinnaroath, Licadho’s coordinator in Svay Rieng, said his group was still investigating the facts of the case.

“We have not concluded whether it is a political issue or not yet,” Bopinnaroath said.

Provincial police chief Kong Khorn declined to comment.

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