PHNOM PENH, May 19 -- The assassination of one of Cambodia's leading anti-government journalists sparked an angry reaction from opposition party members Sunday who claimed the killing was an act of state terrorism. Thun Bun Ly, the 40-year-old editor of the anti-government Odom Katek Khmer or Khmer Ideal newspaper and board member of the opposition Khmer Nation Party, was gunned down in a driveby killing in Phnom Penh Saturday morning. KNP party officials said Bun Ly's funeral scheduled for Monday will now be held Wednesday so it can be combined with a protest rally against what they say is state violence and intimidation of opposition members. 'It is terrorism that carefully picks its targets -- journalists and militants of political parties opposed to the current regime in Phnom Penh,' said KNP president Sam Rainsy who was launching his party's first office outside the capital at the time of the shooting. 'If the terrorists think by assassinating Thun Bun Ly they can intimidate us and put a brake on our legal and peaceful pro-democracy activities they are sadly mistaken,' Rainsy added. The government has refused to legalize the 6-month-old KNP, Cambodia's fastest growing opposition party. The Odom Katek Khmer newspaper is a frequent critic of the former communist Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Bun Ly's colleagues said Sunday they believe a May 4 edition of the newspaper that contained allegations against Hun Sen's wife had resulted in Bun Ly's murder. 'Guards at the KNP office and our newspaper office received warnings two to three days ago that unidentified men wished to locate Bun Ly following the publication,' said one reporter who worked for Bun Ly.
First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh, who has problems with Hun Sen's increasingly powerful position within the current coalition government, has also condemned Bun Ly's death. 'This barbarous act deeply affects the freedom of the press, freedom of expression and liberal democracy in Cambodia which I firmly promote and support,' the first prime minister said in a statement released Saturday. Police said they have no leads on who may be responsible for the killing. There has been no formal comment from the second prime minister's Cabinet, but sources close to Hun Sen said the killing may have been carried out by forces who wished to discredit the government in advance of a major donor meeting in July. Rainsy Sunday reiterated his call for foreign governments to make their massive aid program to Cambodia conditional on a government clampdown on corruption and it's adoption of democratic principles.