PHNOM PENH —
The body of slain Cambodian political analyst and activist Kem Ley will be carried tens of kilometers through the middle of Phnom Penh on Sunday in a procession organizers expect to draw a massive crowd of supporters.
Ley, a widely revered public figure, was assassinated while drinking his morning coffee at petrol station in the capitol on Sunday, sparking a mass outpouring of sorrow, frustration and fury across Cambodia.
Thirty-eight year old Oeut Ang was charged on Wednesday with murder in connection with the killing.
Ley was a powerful orator who reached millions through his regular dissections of politics on radio. He founded the Grass Roots Democracy Party, an entity he refused to take a formal position in after it was established.
After a tense standoff with police, thousands of supporters marched with his body through the city to Wat Chas pagoda where thousands of mourners have come to pay their respects each day and where his body was frozen last night to prevent further decay.
“We have big event to celebrate Dr Kem Ley go to Wat Chas in the pagoda, Wat Chas pagoda, go to his village and we going 7am,” Tim Malay, head of the Cambodian Youth Network and an organizer of the procession said last night.
Malay predicted one million people would join the procession as it marches to the Ley family home in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district.
Mourners pray near the body of murdered political analyst and activist Kem Ley. (D. Boyle for VOA)
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said the CNRP had decided to postpone their fourth anniversary celebrations set for Sunday so they could join the procession, but added they did not feel the need to mobilize supporters for the event.
“We’re not going to call because the people will go on their own, we don’t need to do that,” she said.
Sochua said there was always a concern of potential violence at such an event but that she believed "both sides" were committed to avoiding that.
Angry Ley supporters say responsibility for his death reaches far higher up into the ruling party apparatus and a huge attendance at Sunday’s rally could spark significant tensions with authorities.
National police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said he wasn’t concerned about the turnout.
“We just take care about the security and safety, that’s our problem,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan discounted the possibility of a million mourners at the event, but said that provided the family had obtained the necessary permission, the family was entitled to hold the procession.
“Well they have a right to do that because it is their custom,” he said, adding that he thought City Hall would facilitate the process but did not know if permission had been sought or granted.
City Hall could not be reached for comment.