Young analysts and students of the late Kem Ley have vowed to continue his work, particularly in the provinces, after the political analyst and grassroots organiser was gunned down last week at a petrol station in the capital.
Meeting on Saturday morning, the Young Analysts Group – dressed in black and white with ribbons pinned to their clothes in mourning – said they would not be deterred by the violence that silenced their mentor.
“We consider Dr Kem Ley a hero of freedom of expression in Cambodia,” said the group’s president, Hang Vitou.
“The assassination of intellectual, political, environmental activists, such as against Kem Ley, is the biggest threat to democracy in Cambodia . . . it is part of the Cambodian disease.”
A number of the young analysts pledged to follow Ley’s mission of social research and analysis, promising not to exchange their knowledge for money or promotion, and not to cease speaking out of fear.
“We promise to wipe away our tears and go further,” they said.
The group, a subset of about 50 within the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association, were joined by Dr Meas Ny, an analyst who presented alongside Ley during his final radio appearance, which addressed the Global Witness report highlighting Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family’s business ties.
Ny said he had never seen a larger outpouring of public grief than after Ley was slain last Sunday, excepting the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk. “He was just a simple person, he was not a king,” he said. “Leaders also use the strategy of killing one, thinking that when they kill one person, they can threaten so many other people . . . the question is, are we among those 1,000 people that are afraid of expressing our opinions and ideas, or are we the ones that can stand up and take action?”
He added the public were now “seeking the truth” by accessing information online, rather than swallowing the narrative spun by leaders. “We in Cambodia have seen so many regimes related to wars. Today is not a physical war, but a psychological war,” he said. “This is not a colour revolution, this is a thinking revolution.
“The death of Kem Ley is a catalyst for the government to think of another way to lead this country, rather than just threatening people to scare them.”
The young analysts pledged to gather documents and research upon which to base their ideas, as well as make regular trips to the provinces and share their views on radio broadcasts.
They were also hopeful of educating Cambodia’s large youth population ahead of the 2018 national election.