[Editor's note: this is the first in a two-part series.]
Touch Sunnich, the Cambodian singer who survived a murder attempt in October 2003, sang into the phone Wednesday, an unaccompanied, haunting melody describing a lover who keeps the house dog away whenever a young girl comes to visit.
"When I go to see you," she sang, "you help by keeping the dog on a leash."
The song, which came unprompted during an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer, proved the young woman still had her singing voice, even though she had to sing from bed, paralyzed from the neck down.
Touch Sunnich, who survived a shooting in the face by unknown assailants, said she relived her own fear when she learned another singer, Pov Panhapich, was shot in February.
"It's the same thing that happened to me," Touch Sunnich said.
Touch Sunnich lost her mother in the 2003 attack. They were shot by four men on motorcycles after a shopping trip in Phnom Penh.
Pov Panhapich remains in treatment in a Vietnamese hospital after she was shot in the throat. Her condition is improving, but her recovery is likely to be long and expensive, and she is trying to move to another country.
The motives for those shootings are unknown.
Actress Piseth Pilika, who family members claim was having an affair with Prime Minister Hun Sen, was murdered in 1999. That murder, too, has gone unsolved.