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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Reward for Cambodian star's killers

Piseth Pelika: The sweetheart of Cambodia's entertainment industry

Cambodian police have offered a huge - by local standards - reward for information leading to the capture of those behind the murder of the country's most famous actress.

The death of Piseth Pelika has sparked a national outpouring of grief and the government has come under mounting public pressure to bring her killer to justice.

[ image: Newspapers have given her death blanket coverage]
Newspapers have given her death blanket coverage
In response the government says it is prepared to offer a reward of 20 million riels or $5,300 for information leading to an arrest.

The average wage in Cambodia is about $270 a years, with most Cambodians getting by on far less.

But in spite of the rewardw money, many of the mourners filing past her body said they were pessimistic about the chances of an arrest. Most blame the government for failing to tackle Cambodia's spiralling crime rate.

Revenge attack

[ image:  ]
Piseth Pelika died on Tuesday, a week after being gunned down in what police believe was a revenge attack.

The 34-year-old actress was shot three times while shopping in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Thousands of distraught fans have been crowding into the grounds of Phnom Penh University's School of Fine Arts, where the actress is lying in state.

[ image: Thousands of fans have come to pay their respects]
Thousands of fans have come to pay their respects
Piseth Pelika - best known for her performance in King Norodom Sihanouk's film "Shadow of Darkness" - was a teacher of traditional ballet at the school.

"Her performances represent the entire nation and her death is like losing Angkor Wat," said one fan, referring to the country's most famous temple.

"The person who raised his hand to kill her also killed the nation's soul," she added.

Jealous wife

Several local newspapers have speculated that the killing was ordered by the jealous wife of a government official who allegedly had an affair with the actress.

A special police task force has been set up to investigate the assassination, but has so far failed to produce any description of a suspect.

General Teng Savong, who heads the team, said: "We're doing our best to find the killer to meet the demands of the people. We're investigating every possibility - love, jealousy, robbery - everything.''

However most of those lining up to pay their respects to the murdered star appeared to believe the police will steer clear of any scandal because of the alleged high-level links to the crime.

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