The mothers of murdered political analyst Kem Ley and his convicted slayer, Oueth Ang, have both questioned a Cambodian court’s recent decision to sentence the latter to life in prison last week, saying it is unlikely he is solely responsible for the killing.
Phauk Se, whose son Kem Ley was gunned down on the morning of July 10, 2016 as he stopped for coffee at a gasoline station on a busy intersection in the capital Phnom Penh, said Tuesday demanded that authorities proceed with an investigation in the case.
She told RFA’s Khmer Service that she wants “additional people who were involved to be held accountable” for the killing, suggesting that an earlier probe which found Oueth Ang accountable for his death did not bring the plot’s masterminds to justice.
“We don’t think the case should be concluded at this stage,” she said, referring to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s March 23 sentencing of Oueth Ang—who calls himself Chuob Samlab, a Khmer name meaning “meet to kill”—to life in prison for the murder.
“We are frustrated. I don’t understand how blurry footage of a video [from the shop where he was killed] could be used as evidence in the trial. Now it’s up to [the court authorities]. Whatever they decide—it’s up to them.”
Oueth Ang had confessed during his brief March 1 trial to shooting Kem Ley twice at blank point range after growing angry over an unpaid debt of U.S. $3,000, though his motive is not supported by physical evidence and has been widely dismissed by critics.
During the trial, court authorities reviewed blurry footage from the CCTV camera at a Star Mart shop showing the killing and other video clips from nearby street cameras showing the defendant running from the crime scene through several downtown intersections.
Footage from additional CCTV cameras inside the convenience store was confiscated by police and delivered to court authorities, but inexplicably never shown as evidence.
Most of the 10 people who delivered testimonies during the trial were police officers who read brief statements and were never comprehensively cross-examined, while several other potentially important witnesses were never brought to court.
Oueth Ang’s claim that he loaned Kem Ley U.S. $3,000 for a job and a home has also been refuted by both his family and that of the victim, who say the two had never met, while the killer’s wife maintains he was too poor to lend out money.
On Tuesday, Oueth Ang’s mother, Ek Tap said she is unconvinced that her son was behind Kem Ley’s murder.
Speaking to RFA from her home village of Tonle Sa, in the Norkor Pheas commune of Siem Reap province’s Angkor Chum district, Ek Tap said that while her son was a former soldier, “he had never mistreated anyone.”
Ek Tap said she had not seen Oueth Ang since his arrest eight months ago—which she only learned about through a Facebook post that a fellow villager showed her—and has been unable to sleep since he was sentenced to life in prison.
“I would like to appeal to [King Norodom Sihamoni] to reduce my son’s sentence,” she said, reiterating her claim that Oueth Ang could not have carried out Kem Ley’s murder on his own.
Kem Ley had amassed a popular following because of his willingness to speak out against what he saw as political injustices under the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on a 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.
Hun Sen has sued for defamation three people he accuses of suggesting Kem Ley’s murder was planned by the CPP—former president of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) Senator Thak Lany and political analyst Kim Sok. Sam Rainsy and Thak Lany are both in exile, and Kim Sok is in jail awaiting trial.
Kem Ley’s wife, Bou Rachana, and their five sons have fled Cambodia for their safety and applied for refugee status with the United Nations. Bou Rachana has said she is not interested in pursuing the case and has no faith in Cambodia’s courts.
Reported by Chandara Yang and Sobratsavyouth Hang for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.