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Kem Ley case ‘remains open’ two years on

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Mourners surround a vehicle carrying the body of slain political commentator Kem Ley during his funeral in July 2016. Heng Chivoan

Kem Ley case ‘remains open’ two years on

While commemorations are set to be held on Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of the slaying of political analyst Kem Ley, the investigating judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court has said the case is still open.

Ley, 45, was shot twice with a Glock handgun at a Caltex petrol station cafe in the capital’s Monivong Boulevard on July 10, 2016.

Oeut Ang, the man arrested some 20 minutes later, was sentenced to life in prison last year after being convicted of murder.

Ang, who upon his arrest called himself Choub Samlab, which means “meet to kill” in Khmer, said he shot Ley over a $3,000 debt – claims dismissed by Ley’s family.

Seng Leang, the investigative judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, who is handling an additional investigation into the murder, told The Post on Monday that the case is still open.

“We are investigating the case and it is not closed as yet. It is part of the investigation so I cannot say,” Leang replied when asked how many people were under investigation. He declined further comment.

Phnom Penh municipal police chief Song Ly said on Monday that he had not received a court order to re-examine the case and referred all questions back to the court.

Ley’s family commemorated his death with followers over the weekend in Australia, while Cambodians working in South Korea also honoured the anniversary.

His wife, Bou Rachana, who left for Australia after her husband’s shooting, could not be reached for comment.

Political analyst Meas Ny said there will be a small commemoration at Ley’s home in Takeo on Tuesday, while many took to social media to express their condolences.

At least three political parties vowed to find justice for the fallen activist and said they believed the case did not end with Ang’s conviction.

Kem Rithiseth, the president of the Khmer United Party, reiterated yesterday that finding justice for his slain brother is among his party’s election pledges.

“Our goal is to continue to find justice for Kem Ley. After he was killed, only Oeuth Ang was arrested."

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Police stand next to Oeut Ang at the Phnom Penh police headquarters after he was arrested for the murder of Kem Ley in 2016. Photo supplied

“Ang has confessed, but the public doesn’t believe him or accept [that he is behind the murder], and neither does his family. We have to find justice,” Rithiset said.

Sam Inn, the spokesperson for the Grassroots Democratic Party which Ley co-founded, said on Monday that it would commemorate the second anniversary of his death at Wat Chass, where a funeral service was held for the analyst.

Inn said justice for Ley would ultimately come with his party changing Cambodia’s political landscape. “We will complete our mission by re-organising the system of governance in Cambodia and making the courts [impartial].

“Only then will we find justice for Kem Ley. We want to make large-scale reforms to get good governance in Cambodia. When we achieve this, I believe that justice for him and his family will finally be delivered,” he said.

Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros said it was also committed to finding those behind the killing.

“We have announced our stance to find justice and those who really killed Kem Ley in broad daylight in Phnom Penh.

“Don’t create a fake killer. We demand the court finds the real perpetrators and punishes them for their actions. This will make people trust the judicial system,” he said.

Sros said he did not believe Ang was the real killer. “His body shape and clothing did not match that of the killer in the CCTV footage, which created suspicion.

“The suspect was wearing black shoes when he was arrested, but [the killer was wearing] sneakers with a thick white sole during the crime,” he said.

Sros filed a lawsuit in September last year against activist monk But Buntenh and Pa Nguon Teang, founder of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, accusing them of embezzling money from Ley’s funeral fund, allegations Ley’s family believed were politically motivated. The case is ongoing.

The Bangkok-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) yesterday reiterated its call to establish an independent and impartial commission to investigate the case.

“The trial of Ang left many unanswered questions about the investigation and the killing itself, which Cambodia has a duty to resolve as part of the family’s and the public’s right to know the truth,” said Kingsley Abbott, a senior legal adviser at the ICJ.

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