Cambodian police arrested a young social media user on Wednesday for a video she posted on Facebook suggesting that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family were behind the killing last year of a prominent political analyst and scholar, RFA’s Khmer Service has learned.
Heng Leakhena said the premier and his relatives had a hand in the gunning down of Kem Ley a year ago when he stopped for coffee in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the capital Phnom Penh.
Police in the capital said they apprehended Heng Leakhena in flagrante delicto—a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offence—after she posted a video clip of herself making comments that the premier and his relatives masterminded the murder.
They have questioned her, and she remains in custody.
She posted the video she made at a ceremony on July 9, marking the first anniversary of Kem Ley’s death.
“The contemptible Sen and his entire family are all murderers,” Heng Leakhena said in the video which she posted on the first anniversary of Kem Ley’s death.
“Their hands are stained with Dr. Kem Ley’s blood,” she said.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, said that it is impossible to release Heng Leakhena because she has committed an in flagrante delicto crime.
“She may have been too emotional on the anniversary of Kem Ley’s death or it may have been her premeditated intent to do it,” he said. “Freedom of speech in a democratic society has its boundaries. She cannot just do whatever she wants. I am very sorry that she is so young and has committed such an offense.”
Duch Pisethm, director of the country’s Center for Human Rights Advocacy, said the action that authorities have taken against the girl is too harsh because Hun Sen is a public figure and should not be immune from public scrutiny.
“I think a public figure should be more patient,” he told RFA. “In the meantime, the government should create an independent committee to investigate Dr. Kem Ley’s murder case to find real justice for him and his family.”
Though authorities have oversight of how freedom of expression and rights should be enjoyed, the judicial police should resort to softer means to address people who criticize the government, he said.
Court cases against critics
Heng Leakhena will be the fourth person to become involved in court cases brought against them by Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) government over comments on the murder of late political analyst.
Hun Sen has sued three others for defamation—Sam Rainsy, former head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), opposition Senator Thak Lany, and jailed political commentator Kem Sok—over accusations that the CPP planned Kem Ley’s murder.
Sam Rainsy and Thak Lany are both in exile, and Kim Sok is in jail awaiting trial.
Days before Kem Ley was murdered on July 10, 2016, he discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based group Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 32 years.
Former soldier Oeuth Ang—who calls himself Chuob Samlab, a Khmer name meaning “meet to kill”—confessed to shooting Kem Ley over a U.S. $3,000 debt. Though he was sentenced to life in prison in March for the crime, it is widely believed that others were involved in the slaying and that Oeuth Ang had had no contact at all with the political analyst prior to the killing.
Cambodians held services in the capital Phnom Penh and elsewhere around the country on Sunday and Monday to commemorate Kem Ley on the first anniversary of his death, while the United States and rights groups called for a full and impartial reinvestigation of his murder.
Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.