Letter Repeats Call for Independent Inquiry Into Kem Ley’s Death

Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the murder of political analyst Kem Ley, 164 human rights and civil society organizations repeated a call for an independent inquiry to take over the ongoing investigation.

An open letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng signed by the groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, urges the government “to establish an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry, in line with international standards, to continue the investigation.”

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Police officers inspect the scene of Kem Ley’s murder at a Caltex gas station in Phnom Penh on July 10 last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

A smaller group of 66 organizations made a similar request in March.

The letter says there has been a lack of progress in the investigation, which has been split into two separate cases. The shooter, Oeuth Ang, was convicted in March while investigations into two alleged accomplices continue.

“Oeuth Ang’s lawyer reportedly suggested these persons are ‘Pou Lis’, who, according to Oeuth Ang’s testimony, introduced Oeuth Ang to Kem Ley, and a second man named ‘Chork,’ who Oeuth Ang claimed had sold a handgun to him,” it says. “Despite this, neither the investigating judge nor the [government] have since publicly reported any progress regarding the supposed investigation or its subjects.”

It adds that a failure to publicly disclose information related to the investigation defies U.N. protocols on investigating “suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions” and “gives the strong impression that little progress has been made in the investigation, if such an investigation is occurring at all.”

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement on Sunday that the killing of Kem Ley, 46, was “all about silencing a prominent critic and reiterating that speaking about such sensitive topics carries a deadly risk.”

“No one believes the story concocted by convicted killer Oeuth Ang, not even his wife and family,” he said.

Mr. Robertson said an investigation must include U.N. representatives and legal experts with no connection to the government.

“Sadly, the prospects of this happening are close to nil,” he said.

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