Kem Ley’s Widow: I Would Have Rejected PM’s Donations

The widow of slain political analyst Kem Ley said in a radio interview that she would not have taken the $60,000 her husband’s family accepted from Prime Minister Hun Sen to help pay for a memorial stupa and costs of a one-year anniversary ceremony.

“In my opinion, donations from people who love my husband should be enough to cover the funeral,” Bou Rachana said in a Facebook message to The Cambodia Daily on Tuesday.

cam photo kem ley
Bou Rachana holds her newborn son, Kem Ley Virak, in a photograph posted to the Facebook page of CNRP official Sang Sann.

Mr. Hun Sen donated $50,000 toward the proposed 16-meter marble stupa on Saturday and $10,000 on July 15 to cover outstanding bills for the anniversary ceremony. It followed a public appeal for financial assistance by Kem Ley’s brother, Kem Rithisith. Construction on the stupa in Takeo province began in May.

But Ms. Rachana said on Tuesday that small donations from supporters of the popular commentator, who was shot dead on July 10 last year at a Phnom Penh gas station in what many believe was a politically motivated killing, would be more than enough to pay for the $170,000 stupa and any other bills.

“We have seen that over 2 million people love and support him, so if each of them donated $1 then it would be enough, and others don’t need to donate,” she said in a message.

Ms. Rachana fled to Thailand with her sons after her husband was murdered.

“Since I left for a second country, I never communicate with my husband’s family. For me, I would not receive the funds [from Mr. Hun Sen] because we already know who is behind this,” Ms. Rachana told Radio Free Asia (RFA), as quoted by VOD Hot News on Tuesday.

“When I heard about [Mr. Hun Sen’s donation], it hurt me that my husband’s family” accepted it, she said.

On Tuesday, in a Facebook message, she confirmed her comments made during the RFA interview but declined to discuss them. Mr. Rithisith said on Tuesday that many Cambodians may not be able to afford to contribute to his brother’s memorial.

“We should understand how many people in the country are poor,” he said.

Sao Kosal, a member of the stupa committee, said all were welcome to donate, but money could not buy justice.

“What the people want is justice, to fully investigate and find out who was behind the murder,” he said.

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Correction: A quote from Bou Rachana in which she said donations from Kem Ley supporters could cover memorial expenses was previously misattributed to an interview with Radio Free Asia. The article has been updated to reflect that Ms. Rachana said this to The Cambodia Daily in a Facebook message.

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