July 11, 2016 – Hundreds of Cambodians flocked to Wat Chas in the capital’s Chroy Changvar district today to pay their last respects to prominent political analyst Kem Ley, who was shot dead yesterday.
Clad in black and white, mourners crammed into a small sheltered area inside the temple, where they kneeled down and bowed to Kem Ley’s body. He was covered in a Cambodian flag and a huge pile of flowers that had been placed by mourners.
Kem Ley, 46, was shot behind his left ear and under his left arm while he was having coffee at a minimart inside a petrol station at around 9am. He died at the scene.
The gunman managed to escape, but was soon captured by authorities on Sothearos Boulevard. He was later identified by the Ministry of Interior as 38-year-old Choup Samlap, a Cambodian national from Banteay Meanchey who works as farmer in Thailand.
He is said to have confessed to killing the analyst over an unpaid debt of US$3,000, but there has been speculation in some quarters that the fatal shooting may be linked to Kem Ley’s outspoken criticism of the Cambodian government.
Kem Ley was regarded as one of the most prominent political commentators in Cambodia.
Two days before his murder, he commented on the most recent report by UK-based NGO Global Witness, which claimed the family of Prime Minister Hun Sen has used his power to amass vast personal fortunes worth more than US$200 million in the country’s private sector.
Soon after his death, the Prime Minister labelled the incident as “heinous” while Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, called it “a vulgar and cruel act that is unacceptable”.
Leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy described the killing as “another act of state terrorism”, saying the analyst was shot dead “because he apparently represented a political danger for the other side”. The US Department of State issued a statement calling on Cambodian authorities to ensure the legal process is “thorough and impartial”.
“We are following developments in this case closely,” the statement added.