Oeuth Ang, the former soldier on trial for slaying popular political analyst Kem Ley as he sat down for coffee and newspapers on a July morning last year, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday morning.
Presiding Judge Leang Samnath called Mr. Ang—who has insisted on the alias Chuop Samlap, which literally means “meet kill”—to the dock at about 9 a.m. and read out the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision.
“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court decides to sentence Oeuth Ang, also known as Chuop Samlap, to life in prison on charges of premeditated murder and illegal weapons possession on July 10, 2016, committed at the Caltex Starmart,” he said.
The sentencing, however, is unlikely to appease Kem Ley’s family and legion of supporters, who have decried what they call an investigation and trial that served only to cover up what they believe was an assassination orchestrated by the ruling CPP.
Judge Samnath said Kem Ley’s family could request compensation.
Mr. Ang’s lawyer, Yung Phanith, said the municipal court was still investigating the possible involvement of others in the murder.
“They have split the case in order to to investigate the related persons,” Mr. Phanith said.
“One is named Pou Lis and the another named Chak,” he added. “These two guys haven’t given testimony at the court yet and we are not sure if it will make any change to the case of Chuop Samlap.”
The lawyer added that he would have to confer with his client before deciding whether to appeal the verdict.
During his trial, Mr. Ang said he purchased the Glock pistol used to murder Kem Ley from a Thai man named Chak. It was not clear how “Pou Lis” might have been involved, though questions have also been raised over who brought the shooter from his hometown in Siem Reap province to Phnom Penh in the days before the shooting.
Mr. Ang has said that he acted alone in killing Kem Ley, claiming that it was an act of revenge after he paid the analyst $3,000 for a job and a house that were never delivered. However, families of both men say the two never met.
A close friend told Cambodia Daily reporters in July that Mr. Ang said he was going to Phnom Penh to once again join the military in the days before the murder, while an Al Jazeera documentary on the murder quotes an anonymous source saying that the suspect met with local officials shortly before he departed.
Although tens of thousands of Kem Ley’s supporters took to the streets when his body was carried from Phnom Penh to his hometown in Takeo province days after his death, only a few were outside the court yesterday.