Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Suspect charged over murder of political analyst Kem Ley

Suspect charged over murder of political analyst Kem Ley

Police stand next to Oeut Ang on Sunday at the Phnom Penh municipal police headquarters after he was arrested for the murder of political analyst Kem Ley. Photo supplied
Police stand next to Oeut Ang on Sunday at the Phnom Penh municipal police headquarters after he was arrested for the murder of political analyst Kem Ley. Photo supplied

Suspect charged over murder of political analyst Kem Ley

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday provisionally charged the suspected murderer of prominent political analyst Kem Ley, while also issuing a charge for selling a firearm for an unidentified individual.

In a strange twist, the court chose to sentence the alleged gunman under the name and age he provided to police – Chuob Samlab (which translates in English to “meet to kill”), 38 – rather than his identity as confirmed by family members – 44-year-old Oeut Ang.

“We decided to charge him using his name as he gave it to us, but we will investigate to find out his real identity,” said court spokesman and prosecutor in the case Ly Sophanna.

Charged with premeditated murder and illegal weapons possession, Ang faces a possible life sentence for allegedly shooting Ley twice at close range on Sunday morning while the frequent government critic drank coffee at a Caltex service station in Phnom Penh.

Sophanna said police had also charged a second person with selling a firearm under Article 20 of Cambodia’s Law on the Management of Weapons and Explosives and Ammunition, which carries a maximum two-year jail term.

But the prosecutor refused to identify the second suspect, claiming it would compromise the investigation.

Ang, who chose to appear without the services of a lawyer yesterday, told police he shot Ley over an alleged debt with a gun bought from Thailand in a confession released online.

However, many, including Ang’s wife and mother, who live in Nokor Pheas commune in Siem Reap’s Angkor Chum district, have questioned the “debt” motive, saying they had never heard him mention Ley.

Others, including Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy, have accused the government of involvement, while media friendly to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have similarly cast aspersions on the opposition.

Given suggestions of state involvement, many organisations have called for an independent investigation.

Senior international legal adviser for the International Council of Jurists Kingsley Abbott yesterday demanded international involvement in the investigation.

“A working hypothesis that must be investigated is that agents of the state were involved in Kem Ley’s killing, given how outspoken he was on political issues and in light of Cambodia’s troubling history of impunity for allegedly politically motivated killings,” Abbott said, via email.

Speaking yesterday, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith acknowledged that social media users had implicated the CPP, though noted similar allegations were being directed at the opposition.

“We will work very hard to find justice for the victim, and secondly, we want to find the bad people in order to protect our society,” Chantharith said. “We are committed to finding the person, or mastermind, who is behind the suspect, but we need time.”

Meanwhile yesterday, the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Angela Corcoran paid her respects at Ley’s funeral at Chroy Changvar’s Wat Chas and also met with his widow, Bou Rachana, who has said she hopes to leave for Australia out of fears for her family’s safety.

Though on Tuesday the embassy said it had received no request for assistance by the family, groups in Australia, including members of the Cambodian diaspora, have offered to help Rachana and her four sons relocate.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman