Authorities in Cambodia Block Activists from Attending Ceremonies on Kem Ley’s Death Anniversary

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Authorities in Cambodia’s Takeo state Friday setup roadblocks to prevent a group of roughly 100 activists in the capital Phnom Penh from linking in ceremonies commemorating the life span of political commentator and social activist Kem Ley about the anniversary of his refusal.

Kem Ley had been shot to death in broad daylight on July 10, 2016 while using a morning coffee in a Caltex gas station mini marketplace, days after openly criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen and his loved ones for misuse of power and unexplained prosperity.  A trained doctor who held a doctorate, he had been 45 and left seven children and a widow.

Authorities stopped members of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA) and the Cambodian Youth Network, citing COVID-19 worries and running driver’s license checks.

“I’m quite sad. As a taxpayer, I would like to pay attention to the late Kem Ley, but the police stopped us” Vorn Pao, president of IDEA, told RFA’s Khmer Service.

He explained that although the authorities ceased his band of activists, they did not really assess them for COVID-19. They didn’t permit any in the team to keep their travel, rather taking them into a police station for questioning regarding the driver’s licenses.

Sar Mory, the Cambodian Youth Network’s program manager, told RFA police followed him from the capital and took photos of his license plate number, eventually quitting his bus, which was taking 20 passengers. The youths then walked six kms (3.7 mile) before catching a ride with buddies.

Each of those fans from both teams finally made it into the service, but many were overdue, coming at various times due to the delays.

“The activities of the authorities are a limitation against our liberty as citizens to share in a spiritual ceremony. We just wished to express our appreciation and pay our respects to the late Kem Ley,” said Sar Mory.

Stopping the fans to assess driver’s licenses is prohibited based on Soeung Sen Karuna, the spokesman for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), a regional rights organization.

He told RFA that the police actions aimed only to limit the liberty of individuals wanting to take part in the ceremonies.

Police deny wrongdoing

National Police Spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told RFA that the Takeo authorities advised him that the activists were traveling in a sinking bus which has been further weighed down by hefty bag.

He explained that authorities have the right to assess people and prevent them from utilizing the service as a political occasion to safeguard safety.

“Authorities have the right to prevent them from connecting the service because the household [of Kem Ley] filed a complaint requesting us to preserve order,” stated Chhay Kim Khoeun

“People are using this event for political motives, with a few upsetting the unfortunate occasion to broadcast it live [on Facebook],” he explained.

The spokesman stated that the authorities had no difficulties with the event .

Vorn Pao refused Chhay Kim Khoeuns assertion that the authorities didn’t violate any laws, Kem Ley’s sister said the family had no complaints regarding people.

Family welcomed fans

Kem Ley’s household was conscious that fans wanted to combine the service and they didn’t request police to keep them from connecting, based on Kem Ley’s sister, Kem Thavry.

She told RFA that authorities had Kem Ley’s mom sign a statement, however, her mom didn’t understand what it stated.

“The announcement was written. My mom only thumbprinted on her title,” she explained.

Meanwhile in Stung Treng province, authorities ceased 30 monks and villagers from coordinating their own service to commemorate Kem Ley.

Their service was disrupted because local governments along with a provincial prosecutor came into the event to prevent it, according to the Venerable Bo Beth.

He told RFA the youths participate in their own occasion were eliminated and not allowed to remain in the event throughout the evening.

“[The authorities] are frightened of Kem Ley’s shadow. They breached people’s liberty,” said Bo Beth.

“Before I organized the occasion, I read that the laws and constitution about presentations. I didn’t observe any legislation which prevents us from arranging a Buddhist ceremony to commemorate the life span of somebody like Dr. Kem Ley, who’s still in our hearts,” said the monk.

Widow’still enduring’

Kem Ley’s widow, Bou Rachna informed RFA she’s still suffering four decades following her husband’s departure.

“I try to forget my distress by spending time caring for my kids. I lie to myself who Kem Ley is still focusing on his own assignment and will return home a day,” she explained from Australia within an RFA call-in series Friday.

Bou Rachna stated she welcomed a new initiative to end impunity in Cambodia launched Friday from the illegal resistance Cambodia National Rescue Party and claimed the man now serving time for the offense isn’t actually the killer of her husband.

“The govt. Has the responsibility to get the actual killers and prosecute them,” she explained.

Police charged a former soldier called Oeuth Ang with Kem Ley’s murder and sentenced him to life in prison in March 2017. In May this past year, court police refused his appeal and upheld his sentencebut most in Cambodia don’t think the government’s story that Kem Ley was murdered by the guy above a debt.

“Cambodia has imprisoned a scapegoat whilst permitting the masterminds to stay free, so it is clear that the domestic investigation has failed and also an independent, global effort has to step in to guarantee accountability,” explained Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Acting CNRP President Sam Rainsy told RFA that they picked the anniversary of Kem Ley’s passing to launch their brand new effort.

“Lots of people are decreasing as sufferers. The previous one was Kem Ley.   That is our final effort to end impunity,” he told RFA.

“We’ve got a huge variety of fans around the globe. And we’ll ensure victims get justice quite soon,” explained Sam Rainsy.

He added that the celebration would offer travel expenses and safety in another state for witnesses, if they come forward.

supplied by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English from Eugene Whong.


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