Chetharith, a deputy editor of the royalist FUNCINPEC party’s Ta Prum radio station, was killed by a gunman riding on the back of a motorcycle while the journalist was on his way to work in the capital, Phnom Penh.
According to witnesses interviewed by Agence France-Presse, Chetharith, 37, was shot in the head at point-blank range in broad daylight. Local sources tell CPJ that Ta Prum is known for its critical reporting of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and that the station’s director, Noranarith Anandayath, is an adviser to FUNCINPEC party chief Prince Norodom Ranaridhh.
The day before the shooting, the prime minister criticized Ta Prum in the English-language Cambodia Times, accusing the station of insulting his leadership.
Chetharith’s murder came ahead of scheduled three-way talks between the FUNCINPEC party, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The talks were canceled after the journalist’s killing. They had been aimed at ending a political stalemate following the July 27 elections, when Hun Sen and his CPP failed to garner a two-thirds majority of the vote. By law, the CPP was required to form a coalition with opposition parties but refused to do so.
In early December, Police Commissioner Heng Pov told the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) that although police have identified possible suspects in Chetarith’s murder, they do not have enough evidence to make any arrests. The CCHR conducted an in-depth investigation into the killing and concluded that Chetarith was killed because of his work as a journalist.