Prominent members of the committee that organised the funeral for slain political analyst Kem Ley received threats warning them against participating and have now left the country, according to activist monk But Buntenh, whose comments were supported by at least two other members of the committee yesterday.
Buntenh, who himself has left for Thailand, said from as early as July 13, “most of the funeral committee members” were warned not to facilitate the funeral, claiming he was personally threatened by a military general on the telephone.
Moeun Tola, who was also on the committee, said yesterday that in addition to Buntenh, Voice of Democracy director Pa Nguon Teang and Ee Sarom, head of rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, were directly threatened. Both men are understood to have left Cambodia. Teang declined to comment while Sarom was unreachable.
Tola said that although he had not received a specific threat, he had noticed strange people following him and had been contacted by blocked numbers only to have the caller hang up. Another member of the funeral committee, who declined to be named, said he had been told of the threat against Sarom and had also been followed to his office.
“I’m worried; now I don’t like going out anywhere,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on July 24 to join Kem Ley’s funeral procession from Phnom Penh to his home in Takeo province.
After the funeral, Buntenh said he went into hiding because he feared for his safety. Articles then appeared in pro-government media accusing him of embezzling $30,000 from money donated to Ley’s family.
However, this was roundly denied yesterday by Buntenh, Ley’s brother and the analyst’s wife, Bou Rachana. “He has never come close to the cashbox or kept the money,” Rachana said.