A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed his sadness at the daylight murder of prominent government critic Kem Ley in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
“Obviously, I think the Secretary‑General was very sad to learn of the death of Kem Ley. We hope the authorities will mount a full and impartial investigation into the circumstances of his… of the shooting, of his death,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary general, told reporters in New York.
Ley was gunned down by a man who was later arrested and charged with premeditated murder.
The killing provoked international denunciations and calls for an independent inquiry. Earlier this week the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, asked the UN if it could assist the government’s investigation.
Dujarric said UN officials had not seen the request.
“I think overall, the secretary‑general remains very concerned about the situation in Cambodia, including reports of wide-spread intimidation, harassment and arrest of members of civil society, the media, members of the opposition, and the National Election Committee. He calls for the full respect of human rights, including the freedom of expression, association, and assembly.”
A group of UN special rapporteurs also said in a separate statement that the investigation into the murder “should be conducted by an independent body with no ties to the government.”
“We are shocked to learn about the death of Mr. Kem Ley. We call for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the crime that ensures no perpetrator goes unpunished,” they said in the statement.
“The circumstances of Mr. Kem Ley’s death have given rise to deep concerns in view of his standing as a critic of the government and his regular comments in the media highlighting governance and human rights concerns,” the experts said.
Ley, 45, who was well-known for his trenchant criticism of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, was fatally shot at a convenience store in the capital where he often stopped for his morning coffee. His body was taken on Sunday to a pagoda on the outskirts of Phnom Penh where a Buddhist ceremony was held.
A suspect, Oueth Ang, has been charged with murder for Ley’s killing.
The murder has prompted accusations from either side of the political aisle, with Prime Minister Hun Sen using a speech in the wake of the tragedy to suggest the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party had the most to gain from his death.
Opposition officials meanwhile rejected the insinuation that they were to blame.
In a “confession” video broadcast on a Hun Sen family-owned television station on Sunday, the suspect claimed Ley had owed him $3,000, a claim which his supporters and family said they doubted.
Ley, a longtime political and social development analyst, co-founded the Grassroots Democratic Party in 2014, before taking a back seat and allowing others to lead the party.