The Grassroots Democracy Party, the brainchild of murdered political analyst Kem Ley, is seeking to have the date of his assassination recognized as a national day of freedom of expression.
The popular analyst, who predicted his life would be cut short because of his ongoing criticism of Cambodia’s leadership, was shot dead in broad daylight at a Phnom Penh gas station on July 10. The murder was widely seen as a move to silence him.
Speaking at the first anniversary of the creation of the party, which Kem Ley helped found last year out of frustration with the ruling and opposition parties, but never himself joined, party president Yeng Virak said his legacy should be enshrined as a holiday.
“We will request that the government consider setting July 10 as the national day of freedom of expression,” Mr. Virak told roughly 200 officials at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh. “If they do not accept…we will announce that we take this date as the national day of freedom of expression.”
Mr. Virak, the long-time head of the Community Legal Education Center before becoming the founding president of the GDP, was also one of the original members of Kem Ley’s “Khmer for Khmer” group, which pushed for grassroots political participation.
He said the late analyst, who was close friends with most of the GDP leadership and often railed against the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP for failing to practice democracy inside their party structures, had left an indelible mark on the party, although he never formally joined it in an effort to maintain his independence.
“We wipe our tears and commit to continuing the journey to the future with the belief in the reasons for creating the GDP that he and all the founders had—for the party to implement democracy internally starting from the bottom up to the top,” Mr. Virak said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said it was unlikely July 10 would be made a public holiday, pointing out that even late CPP President Chea Sim had not been given this treatment.
“I think it’s overly ambitious, because Kem Ley was not a national personality,” he said. “They’re raising this to get political benefits, because he was just a regular citizen.”