Sunday, 10 July 2016
Kem Ley: Cambodian political analyst shot dead in Phnom Penh shop
Cambodian political analyst Kem Ley at ABC International's studio in Melbourne
PHOTO: Kem Ley was an outspoken critic of both sides of Cambodian politics. (ABC: Alex Khun)
A prominent Cambodian political analyst known for his strong criticism of the Government has been shot dead in the capital, Phnom Penh.
Kem Ley, the head of a grassroots advocacy group Khmer for Khmer, was shot three times at a convenience store, police said.
Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said Kem Ley was shot dead while drinking coffee just before 9:00am local time on Sunday.
A suspect was arrested nearby and confessed to killing the analyst over an unpaid debt, he said.
"But we don't believe him yet. We are working on this case," he said.
Kem Ley's body lay in a pool of blood below a metal table inside the convenience store.
Before long hundreds of onlookers had gathered as police cordoned off the area.
Cambodians gather outside a store where political analyst Kem Ley was shot dead in Phnom Penh.
PHOTO: Onlookers gathered outside the store where political analyst Kem Ley was shot dead. (AFP: Tang Chhin Sothy)
Local media showed pictures of the alleged suspect being taken into custody. He appeared injured with blood running down the left-hand side of his face.
The killing comes at a time of heightened political tensions between Prime Minister Hun Sen and the country's political opposition, who accuse the Prime Minister of launching a fresh crackdown against them.
Scores of government critics and rights workers have been arrested in recent months while others have been tied up in ongoing legal cases.
Phay Siphan, a Government spokesman, described the assassination as "a vulgar and cruel act that is unacceptable".
"His killing will further deepen the complexity of political situation," he told AFP.
He said all sides of Cambodia's political divide needed to remain calm.
Cambodians gather at the scene of the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.
PHOTO: The murder of Kem Ley comes at a time of political tension in Cambodia. (AFP: Tang Chhin Sothy)
Kem Ley was critical of both the Government and opposition parties, advocating for a new era of clean politics in a notoriously corrupt nation which is scheduled to hold a general election in 2018.
But the bulk of his criticism was aimed at Hun Sen's administration, having most recently commented on a report by anti-corruption pressure group Global Witness.
The report, which accused the Prime Minister and his family of having amassed a multi-million-dollar business empire, has been dismissed as personal propaganda by a government spokesman.