After an Interior Ministry spokesman last week suggested that an investigation into the murder of Kem Ley had been slowed by his wife fleeing the country, the slain analyst’s friends and family on Sunday blasted the government’s slow and secretive response over the past two months.
On July 10, Kem Ley was gunned down inside a convenience store in Phnom Penh. About 30 minutes later, a man who identified himself as Chuop Samlap, or “Meet Kill,” was arrested and later charged with premeditated murder. Police said he was motivated by an unpaid debt.
Since then, the probe into the killing—widely believed to be politically motivated—has been shrouded in secrecy, with authorities releasing no new information about the murder since the day it occurred.
Reporters have identified the suspected killer as Oeuth Ang, a former soldier who left his hometown in Siem Reap province about a week before the murder and told a friend he had gone to Phnom Penh to work in the armed forces.
Kem Ley’s widow, Bou Rachana, fled the country last month with her four sons and members of her extended family. Friends have said that she is living in Thailand and seeking asylum in a third country.
During an interview on Vayo FM on Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Ms. Rachana’s flight had hindered efforts to find out more about her husband’s murder.
“I felt sorry…because the victim’s family fled the country,” General Sopheak said. “She did not cooperate with us.”
Kem Rithisith, the brother of Kem Ley, said Gen. Sopheak’s comment was “insulting.”
“We think that it is kind of insulting but we cannot oppose it with our anger,” he said.
“This process is slow and it seems there is no care at all, I think,” he added, pointing to previous high-profile suspected political assassinations that have gone unsolved.
“I seem to have no hope because based on what happened previously, they never found anything,” he said, adding that he was particularly frustrated that police had not released security camera footage of the shooting at a Caltex gas station.
Gen. Sopheak could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Chin Malin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said the case was still under investigation. He also said it would have been preferable for Kem Ley’s family to have stayed in the country while the probe was ongoing.
“It is their private right,” he said. “We cannot force them, but it would have been good if the family had stayed in the country to work with the authorities.”
Pa Nguon Teang, a friend of Kem Ley’s and director of Voice of Democracy, a radio and online news service, said he had no faith in authorities who had also failed to properly investigate the killings of environmental activist Chut Wutty and unionist Chea Vichea.
“It seems like the claims from the government are a way of having the same intention, saying that they are continuing or working but there is no result,” he said.
“I never believe the government will find justice in politically motivated murder cases like this.”