Almost a month after the brazen murder of well-known Cambodian political analyst Kem Ley, people are calling for international involvement in the investigation.
“I want the international [community] and America, as well as international and national human rights organizations, to monitor this investigation,” Siem Reap resident Cheang Mony told VOA Khmer.
“What I am very interested in is that after [Kem Ley] commented on Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, he was shot to death,” Cheang Mony said.
Cheang Mony said he had tuned in to listen to Kem Ley being interviewed last month about a report, which claimed to expose a massive business empire built up by relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Kem Ley was gunned down days later at a busy gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
“If the government wants to stay in government, and receives votes from the people… I want them to find the real killer, the person behind [who gave the order], so that it saves the country’s image,” Cheang Mony said.
On Monday, Hun Sen lodged lawsuits against opposition party leader Sam Rainsy and opposition Senator Thak Lany for allegedly making statement linking the prime minister to the killing of Kem Ley.
Sam Rainsy reiterated his claim of State involvement in the murder on Tuesday.
“Only the government had the means and the capabilities to conduct such brazen attacks, to arrange for their cover-up and to ensure a total impunity for the perpetrators and their mastermind,” Sam Rainsy wrote in an email to VOA Khmer.
Self-confessed killer Oeuth Ang, a troubled, former soldier with debts and a gambling problem, claimed he shot Kem Ley dead on the morning of July 10 over an unpaid loan.
Oeuth Ang’s wife and friends told VOA Khmer that he had no money to lend, and they were doubtful that he had ever crossed paths with the political analyst.
Oeuth Ang had, however, revealed to a friend that he had been re-employed as a soldier in Phnom Penh shortly before he killed Kem Ley.
Adding to the deep sense of unease among the Cambodian public that State actors were involved in the killing, a video was shared on social media on Sunday showing unexplained interaction between a man on a motorcycle who was wearing dark pants, a long-sleeved white shirt and a white helmet and Oeuth Ang, who was fleeing on foot, shortly before he was apprehended.
“The government, and all parties, should hunt for those who killed [Kem Ley]. I want this to happen as soon as possible,” said Yeah Tha, another Siem Reap villager who often listened to Kem Ley commentary on radio.
“I did not want him to die… he helped to broaden people’s knowledge. They shot him to death. Such a thing should not have happened,” Yeah Tha said.
Sar Lao, a tuk-tuk taxi driver, also said he wanted international assistance in the murder investigation.
“I don’t believe [Oeuth Ang] did it on his own. Perhaps there is a commander,” Sar Lao said.
“Non-governmental organizations, [and countries] such as Europe, Australia and American, please help find justice for brother Kem Ley,” he said.
Government officials say there is no need for international assistance in the murder investigation, citing the county’s sovereignty and independence as a reason for not seeking outside expert help.
While many questions persist about the killing, few are in any doubt about the reason Kem Ley was killed: his bravery to speak out about issue affecting the country.
“He dared to analyze all kinds of issues,” said Niv, a Siem Reap resident who attended workshops in Phnom Penh organized by Kem Ley.
“He was straight and talked directly without stumbling or hesitation,” said Niv, who would only give his first name to protect his identity.
“He was a courageous man.”