Kem Ley's Spirit Still Powerful in Cambodia

Kem Ley's Spirit Still Powerful in Cambodia A statue depicting slain government critic Kem Ley is placed at his home village in Takeo province, Oct. 16, 2016.

The spirt of slain government critic Kem Ley still casts a shadow over Cambodia as thousands of people clogged the main roads on Sunday for the close of his 100-day ritual ceremony and some of his former students began selling a compilation of his political essays.

While the crowds weren’t as large as they were in July when an estimated two million people flooded the streets for his funeral, the numbers were still a testament to his popularity at a time of political tensions.

Several mourners including Buddhist monks joined the procession which started at 7 A.M. at the Wat Chas temple in Phnom Penh and ended in Kem Ley’s mother’s backyard Takeo province, where the analyst's remains are buried.

Instead of following Kem Ley’s flag-draped coffin like they did in July, his mourners trailed a life-size copper statute depicting the popular critic and teacher.

The ceremony took place 100 days after Kem Ley was cremated. The 100-day ceremony is an important Buddhist ritual where prayers for the dead are chanted.

At Wat Chas, a group of Kem Ley’s former students sold several thousand copies of a compilation of his political analyses and essays on his vision for Cambodia.

Proceeds from the sales of the book are to be donated to charity for the continuation of Kem Ley’s unfinished business.

The students told RFA’s Khmer Service they would like Prime Minister Hun Sen to read the books because they contain factual information about social issues and Kem Ley’s recommendations to solve them.

“May I encourage all political parties, lawmakers, ministers of various ministries and especially the prime minister to read the book that details factual information about unresolved social issues,” said Muong Sony, a leader of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association.

“If they read them they will appreciate the national development strategies and the relevant recommendations that are included for each issue,” added Muong Sony, who was a Kem Ley’ student.

Development researcher Meas Ny told RFA he doubted that Cambodia’s leaders would take Kem Ley’s words to heart, telling RFA Cambodian politicians normally dislike being advised.

“Kem Ley’s comments were based on his field research,” he said. “He met with people of all walks of life. He also met with government officials. His input reflects the real situation on the ground.”

Murder investigation continues

While Kem Ley’s funeral was winding down, the investigation into his murder continues, even though his wife has yet to file a complaint seeking an investigation, said Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Ly Sophanna.

Kem Ley’s wife Bou Rachana, told RFA that she is still refusing to appear in court, and she has yet to seek legal assistance in the case.

She and her five children, including a 15-day old son, are living a foreign country awaiting action on their asylum case.

Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Though authorities charged former soldier Oueth Ang with the killing, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the former soldier over a debt.

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.


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