- August 12, 2023 3:30 PM
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- January 27, 2023 5:23 PM
PHNOM PENH – Youth activist groups and a political leader on July 10 marked the seventh anniversary of the assassination of Kem Ley, a prominent political analyst, calling for his example to speak the truth to be followed and for justice to be done.
Around 40 people gathered on Monday morning in front of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, at the corner with Norodom and Mao Tse Toung boulevards. The crowd was composed of young activists from Mother Nature Cambodia, Khmer Thavrak, the Cambodian Youth Network, and representatives of the Solidarity House, which hosts several workers’ unions.
Rong Chhun, one of Candlelight Party’s vice presidents, also attended the ceremony in tribute to the murdered political commentator.
Before marching from the Agriculture Ministry to the oil station known as ‘Caltex Bokor’, where Kem Ley was assassinated, young activists poured red water on their heads to represent his blood.
All along their procession, they were carrying a sign with a painting representing Kem Ley’s dead body in the minutes following his death, surrounded by a pool of blood. “Blood for the truth. Kem Ley's blood bleeds out from his body due to speaking the truth,” the banner said in Khmer.
Kem Ley, a prominent political commentator, Ph.D. holder and founder of the Grassroot Democratic Party, was known for his trenchant criticism of the Cambodian government under the leadership of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. His views made him popular with many Cambodian people.
He was assassinated on July 10, 2016, while he was drinking his morning coffee at the Star Mart of the Caltex Bokor station, at the corner between the Monivong and the Mao Tse Toung boulevards.
Despite the arrest of Oeuth Ang, also known as “Chuob Samlab” (“Meet to Kill” in Khmer), who confessed he killed Kem Ley in a dispute over money, controversy over the political commentator’s death has never ceased. Some believe that Ang was merely the executor of what can be considered a political murder.
During the commemorating march on July 10, 2023, Thon Ratha, a young environmental activist for Mother Nature Cambodia, said that he'll follow Kem Ley’s example to speak the truth for the Cambodian people and the country.
“We still remember you [as a] great model and we’ll continue to follow speaking the truth about social issues despite the threats [we face],” he said. “Thank Dr. Kem Ley for your great sacrifice for us. We will remember your sacrifice.”
The crowd laid a wreath of flowers and photos of the political leader in front of the entry of the mart where he died. The mart had closed its doors and shutters before the commemoration started.
The youth group also read an open letter to his soul.
“It was been seven years that Cambodian people could not hear your analysis since you were sent the farther place by a cruel killer. The loss of you was a big loss to the Cambodian people. Although there are thousands of doctor degree [graduates], just a few people dare to sacrifice for the Cambodian people's freedom,” the letter read.
Candlelight Party’s Vice President Rong Chhun said in front of the Start Mart that seven years had passed but justice still had to be done.
He urged the Phnom Penh authorities to continue to search for the real killers and those behind the killings and bring them to justice.
“Impunity must end in Cambodia,” he said.