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Suspect in Kem Ley Murder Could Face Life in Prison


FILE - The murder of Kem Ley on Sunday has flooded media coverage. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)

FILE - The murder of Kem Ley on Sunday has flooded media coverage. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)

The suspected murderer of social analyst Kem Ley, well-known for his trenchant criticism of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, was charged Wednesday with premeditated murder and illegal possession of a lethal weapon, according to a municipal court spokesman in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A second individual, whose name was not disclosed to VOA, was charged for furnishing the weapon allegedly used in the fatal shooting.

Ley was shot while he stopped for coffee at a gas station convenience store Sunday morning.

Media reports have identified the main suspect as Oueth Ang, 43, a resident of Angkor Chum commune in Siem Reap province. Ang has maintained to police that his name is Choub Samlab, which literally means "meet to kill" in Khmer. If found guilty, Ang could receive a life sentence.

Calls for international probe

General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman at the Ministry of Interior, said police thoroughly examined the crime scene and retrieved closed circuit television camera recordings from the site.

FILE - The body of Cambodian government critic Kem Ley is covered by the Cambodian National flag as flowers are placed during a funeral ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2016.

FILE - The body of Cambodian government critic Kem Ley is covered by the Cambodian National flag as flowers are placed during a funeral ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2016.

"The Ministry of Interior already collected evidence and examined the crime scene, arrested the suspect, took the CCTV cameras and did some questioning into the identity of the suspect," he said. "We did all this in 24 hours. On Monday, we sent the case to the Phnom Penh municipal court."

Despite assurances of a thorough investigation, Cambodia's main opposition party has requested United Nations assistance in conducting an independent probe of circumstances surrounding Ley's murder.

"In the case related to the vicious murder against Dr. Kem Ley, we would like to ask for international participation … in the investigation, especially the United Nations, to put an end to the atrocious murder in Cambodia and to put an end to claims that it was unrelated to political issues," the party said in a statement that was issued after a U.N. official based in the Southeast Asian country had called for the same.

Pointing fingers

Sunday's murder prompted accusations from both sides of the political aisle, with Hun Sen using a speech in the wake of the tragedy to suggest the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party had the most to gain from the murder.

Opposition officials, meanwhile, rejected the insinuation that the opposition was to blame.

In a "confession" video broadcast on a Hun Sen family-owned television station Sunday, Ang, the primary murder suspect, claimed Ley owed him $3,000. Ley's supporters and family members have said they doubt that claim.

Ley, a longtime political and social development analyst, co-founded the Grassroots Democratic Party in 2014, before taking a back seat and allowing others to lead the party. He is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, and four children.

Chuon Sovann, Phnom Penh police chief, and National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith could not be reached for comment.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.

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