A woman who used her Facebook page to accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of killing Kem Ley was arrested yesterday, the latest in a crackdown on a growing list of critics who have linked the political analyst’s assassination to the Cambodian government.
During the anniversary ceremonies for Ley’s death earlier this week, Heng Leakhena, dressed in a shirt and cap bearing the logo of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, uploaded a video of herself accusing the premier of orchestrating the murder of the widely admired analyst.
“[It was] the contemptible [Hun] Sen, there is no other,” Leakhena says in the video. “His children are murderers stained with the blood of Kem Ley too.
“Understand that Kem Ley died with pride, and there were Cambodians across the nation supporting him who came to celebrate him without [the funeral organisers] spending any money.”
Apparently comparing the breadth of the outpouring of grief for Ley to what could be expected for Cambodia’s strongman, she added: “If Hun Sen dies, [he] would be dragged into a mouse’s hole.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that Leakhena was being questioned at the ministry and will be taken to court. “She deserves imprisonment. We arrested her and we will send her to the court for sentencing,” Sopheak said, declining to say what charges she could face.
“Wait to see how many years she will be imprisoned. This is Kem Ley’s soul entering her body, making [her] go to jail.”
On Tuesday, a day prior to Leakhena’s arrest, one of Hun Sen’s advisers, Noranarith Anandayath, had shared her post to his own Facebook page, appending an allegation that she had “publicly defamed” Hun Sen, which he said was unforgivable and should invite legal actions.
CNRP Deputy President Pol Ham distanced his party from Leakhena, saying that her being dressed in opposition clothing did not make the party responsible for her actions.
“We don’t know who she is. There is no one letting [her] wear the party shirt to insult like this,” he said. “[We] have [guidelines] not to use coarse words. If she acts like this she has to take responsibility for herself.”
Former CNRP President Sam Rainsy, however, has himself claimed Ley’s murder was an act of “state-sanctioned terrorism” – an accusation that echoed the sentiments of many Cambodians, but saw the self-exiled politician handed 20 months in prison for criminal defamation in May.
Thak Lany, a Sam Rainsy Party senator, was also given 18 months and fled the country after making a similar allegation.
Meanwhile, outspoken critic Kim Sok, who was arrested in February, is set to face trial on July 27, according to an announcement from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
Sok faces a pair of defamation and incitement cases filed by Hun Sen for allegedly suggesting the ruling party was implicated in Ley’s killing. Sok’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, confirmed the investigation into his client had been closed and that he was preparing for trial.
“I will work hard defend his rights to the best of my ability,” Choungy said. The courts have so far denied Sok’s repeated appeals and requests for bail.
Meanwhile, the family of Ley yesterday also confirmed they were seeking legal counsel regarding the verdict handed down in the case of Ley’s killer, Oeut Ang.
Ang, who has insisted on the name Choub Samlab – or “Meet to Kill” in Khmer – and his motive as a $3,000 unpaid debt, was sentenced to life in prison in March.
Authorities have remained tight-lipped about the investigation into Ley’s murder, and even though some officials have suggested that he did not act alone – a view seemingly shared by many – no other suspects have been arrested.
“We refuse to accept this result,” said Ley’s brother, Kem Rithisith. “This was an injustice for the dead and [saying] he died owing money – this was unreasonable and wrong.”
“We want the court to find new evidence and the real perpetrator,” he added. “We do not think [Ang] was alone.”
Ang’s testimony mentioned the involvement of two accomplices – “Pou Lis”, an acquaintance from Thailand who Ang said arranged his only purported meeting with Ley, and “Chouk”, a Thai national who allegedly supplied the gun used to kill the popular political commentator.
Sao Kosal, from housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said he was consulting with Ley’s mother Phok Se about her views on the verdict.
“Because the case is a huge and controversial, it is hard to look for a lawyer to volunteer, but she said that she will work on it,” Kosal said.