Anti-terrorism police arrested a woman on Wednesday for allegedly linking Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family to the murder of political analyst Kem Ley in a live video on Facebook during Sunday’s commemorations for the government critic.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said Heng Leakhena had been questioned and would be detained at the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department overnight. She was to appear before the court again this morning, he said.
“She accused the government leader of being behind the murder,” he said. “It’s not a normal case.”
Y Sok Khy, director of the anti-terrorism department, could not be reached. However, he told government-aligned Fresh News that Ms. Leakhena was arrested as she attempted to board a bus in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district. She was headed home to Banteay Meanchey province, he said.
The video has since been removed from Ms. Leakhena’s page, but a copy saved by another Facebook user still exists online.
“All his children and grandchildren, they are murderers…. The whole family is stained with Dr. Kem Ley’s blood,” Ms. Leakhena says in the video from Sunday, from Kem Ley’s childhood home in Takeo province, where a ceremony marked one year since the popular commentator was gunned down in broad daylight at a Phnom Penh gas station.
Kem Ley, “would be proud, because Khmer [people] in the whole country, they support him,” she said. “If Hun Sen died, his body would be dragged into a rat’s hole.”
A friend of Ms. Leakhena’s, who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution, said Ms. Leakhena was a 25-year-old dressmaker who often criticized the government on Facebook.
“I used to advise her to stop, but she did not listen to me. She said it’s just constructive criticism,” she said.
Chum Huor, an activist who was close to Kem Ley, said he saw Ms. Leakhena shoot the video. The arrest was an overreaction and designed to send a message, he said.
“It is a threatening act; intimidation to sideline the people’s mouths, to stop expressing their opinion on this,” he said.
Mr. Hun Sen has over the past year pursued legal action against a slew of critics he believes have publicly accused him or his party of orchestrating Kem Ley’s murder. A former solider, Oeuth Ang, was convicted in the July 10, 2016 slaying.
Political commentator Kim Sok was charged with defamation and incitement in February for allegedly linking the ruling party to the killing in a radio interview. His trial will begin on July 26, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Similar complaints have also seen opposition senator Thak Lany sentenced to 18 months in prison in November and former CNRP president Sam Rainsy handed a 20-month prison term in March. Both are in self-imposed exile in Europe.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said authorities may have acted so swiftly against Ms. Leakhena because of Facebook’s wide reach.
“Fewer people read newspapers, fewer watch television, which doesn’t show any information…besides music videos,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hannah Hawkins)