Two activist brothers who left Cambodia last week in apparent fear for their safety after they met with slain political analyst Kem Ley shortly before his murder said on Wednesday that they had applied for asylum with the U.N. in Thailand.
Chum Hour and Chum Hout claim they were spied on during a meeting with Kem Ley at a Phnom Penh convenience store on July 9, the day before the popular government critic was gunned down in the same store. The twin brothers say they may now be in the crosshairs of those behind Kem Ley’s murder because of an interview they gave hours after the shooting, telling of the three men they say they saw watching them a day earlier.
The pair caught a flight to Thailand on July 14.
On Wednesday, the 27-year-old brothers said they had applied for asylum at the Bangkok office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday and were awaiting a decision.
“I applied for political asylum with the UNHCR in Thailand,” Mr. Hour said via Facebook, adding that he and his brother were seeking refuge in a “third country.”
The UNHCR’s Bangkok office would neither confirm not deny their applications. “For confidentiality reasons, we cannot comment on individual cases, including whether or not someone has sought asylum,” a spokeswoman said.
Mr. Hour said he and his brother were afraid of returning to Cambodia “because we gave an interview with the media about the people who were spying on Kem Ley at the mart,” he said.
As members of the Youth for Social and Environmental Protection activist group, the brothers have in recent years taken up a number of causes pitting them against government policies and were briefly detained last year for protesting in prison garb.
Kem Ley’s suspected killer was arrested about 30 minutes after the murder and claims to have gunned down the analyst over a $3,000 debt, although many Cambodians have suggested it was a government-ordered hit.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)