Four years to the day after the murder of Cambodian social activist Dr Kem Ley, his death is still shrouded in mystery.
The 46-year-old was a political commentator and civil society advocate before his passing and left behind his wife, Bou Rachana, and five children. A trained physician, Kem Ley spent much of his life traveling through Cambodia researching social and political issues and was a prolific media and radio guest, appearing frequently on Radio Free Asia. Though he was a co-founder of the Grassroots Democratic Party and worked in the political system at various points in his career, he never held office nor campaigned to do so.
Year after year, the Phnom Penh gas station where Kem Ley was gunned down by a man who later identified himself to police as Chuob Somlab, a name that means “Meet Kill” in Khmer, has become a site of pilgrimage for those who hold his memory close. The recurring scene is an echo of the spontaneous procession that gathered after the killing to escort the body of the fallen doctor back to his family home in Takeo province, south of the capital city, and later again congregated there in a funerary scene estimated to have gathered some two million people.