Interview: ‘I Still Seek Justice For my Husband’ Kem Ley

Kem Ley's widow says she is unsatisfied with the handling of the July 2016 daylight murder of her social commentator husband.

Slain government critic Kem Ley's widow Bou Rachana (4th from left) and her children and supporters after the family's arrival in Australia. Feb. 17, 2018.

Bou Rachana, widow of slain Cambodian government critic Kem Ley, was granted asylum in Australia and arrived with her five sons in Melbourne on Feb. 17.  She spoke to Chun Chanboth of RFA’s Khmer Service about the unresolved issues surrounding the killing and funeral her husband, who was gunned down in broad daylight in Phnom Penh on July 10, 2016, 36 hours after discussing on an RFA Khmer call-in show a report by the London-based group Global Witness detailing the wealth of the family of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 32 years.

RFA: How do you feel after your arrival in Australia? What do you say to your supporters?

Bou Rachana: I am so excited that we have arrived safely in a democratic land like Australia. I am also extremely thankful to everybody who always showed concern about my safety. I have nothing to say besides that I am so happy at the moment.

RFA: Before Kem Ley’s death, were there any hints about his murder?

Bou Rachana: Before my husband was killed, I saw some police patrolling around my house a couple of times. He had also told me that some people told him to escape the country because the government would arrest him. My husband said he would not go anywhere because this is his home. After he told me about these things, I saw some police riding motorcycles around my house over several days. Two or three days later, my husband was shot.

RFA:  What is the last word you remember before he was killed on July 10, 2016?

Bou Rachana: The last word I remember from July 10, 2016 was nothing significant. We went to have breakfast together and we came back to our house, and he told me that he would go to meet some youths at the Caltex gas station. After he left home, five minutes later my nephew called me and told me that my husband was shot at the Star Mart. I did not believe them because it was so soon after he dropped me off at home that he got killed.

RFA: Did the authorities ever contact you or threaten you after the murder?

Bou Rachana: After my husband was killed, the authorities never contacted me.

RFA: Did you engage any lawyers in order to apply to see the footage in the security camera?

Bou Rachana: I have never had a lawyer. Regarding the security camera, no one had ever called me to show me the recorded video. I also have never received any court’s summons or warrant.

RFA: Oeut Ang (also known as Choub Samlab) the alleged perpetrator, said he killed Kem Ley because Kem Ley had owed him $3,000. Is that true?

Bou Rachana: It is not true. There was nothing like this involving my husband. My husband has never borrowed any money from Oeut Ang or Choub Samlab. My husband earned enough from his research projects.

RFA: Are you going to complain about your husband’s case to the international court?

Bou Rachana: I still seek justice for my husband. I won’t give up on this matter.

RFA: Can you give an answer or clarify about the lawsuit against three people in Kem Ley’s funeral commission member?

Bou Rachana: The complaint against three people who help to manage my husband's funeral is very unjust. I could not believe the Phnom Penh court ordered the arrest of innocent people. I urge the court to drop this case.

RFA: How did the three funeral commission members manage the money for the ceremony?

Bou Rachana: The three people who are members of the funeral commission did not get involved with money.

RFA: So who managed the money?

Bou Rachana: We [members from my family and from my husband’s family] control the money. I assure you that they are clean.

Translated by Sarada Taing.