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Hun Sen Donates to Fund of Slain Gov’t Critic Amid Calls for Renewed Probe Into Death

In this Nov. 20, 2016 photo, a girl stands by a portrait of Kem Ley, a Cambodian prominent political analyst, at his grave in Ang Takok, Cambodia. Kem Ley, a poor rice farmer's son turned champion of Cambodia's have-nots, was sipping his usual iced latte in the same chair he had occupied most mornings for years when a former solider he may never have met walked into the Caltex gas station cafe. Armed with a semi-automatic Glock pistol, the assassin fired into his chest and head, execution-style. Then he walked casually away from the scene. (AP Photo/Denis Gray)

The donation was made to Kem Rithisith, Ley’s brother, and will go towards to construction of a $170,000 marble stupa in honor of the political critic.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has donated $50,000 towards a memorial for the slain political commentator Kem Ley, who was gunned down last year in a daylight killing that is widely seen as a political assassination.

The donation was made to Kem Rithisith, Ley’s brother, and will go towards to construction of a $170,000 marble stupa in honor of the political critic.

Earlier in the year, Rithisith accepted another donation from the premier, of $10,000, to cover debts incurred as a result of the one-year anniversary of Ley’s death on July 10.

An outspoken political analyst, Ley aired his criticisms of Cambodia’s elite openly and often, leading many to doubt the official account of his death and point the finger to senior officials. He was shot execution-style at a Phnom Penh gas station and a single suspect, Oeut Ang, who claimed he killed Ley over an outstanding debt and was later sentenced for murder.

Rithisith said he accepted the money from Hun Sen despite continuing to campaign for justice for his brother because it was offered in a “religious way”.

The recent donation was handed over on Saturday by Lim Cheavutha, executive director of the pro-government Fresh News website. It was not immediately clear why Cheavutha was selected as an intermediary, but he said Hun Sen made the decision to offer the donation after Fresh News published a report quoting Rithisith speaking about the lack of funding for the one-year anniversary expenses.

“I think it’s a very good deed, because their family faces financial shortages,” Cheavutha said.

Meanwhile, civil society groups and activists continue to campaign for a fresh investigation into Ley’s killing.

But Chin Malin, justice spokesman, said the official investigation had not yet concluded. “The Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the authorities are expanding investigation procedures to search for other relevant people,” he said.Venerable Buth Buntenh and Tim Malay, former members of the commission of Kem Ley’s funeral ceremony, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

However, Sao Kosal, a former member of the group that organized Ley’s funeral, said he welcomed the donation from Hun Sen, adding: “What the people want is not money, but what they want is transparency in searching for the real killer. This will clear up the doubts of the public.”