The Grassroots Democratic Party yesterday marched through the capital during its first major camping rally which marked the second anniversary of the assassination of political analyst Kem Ley, one of the party’s founding fathers.
Hundreds of GDP supporters and members marched yesterday morning from the party’s headquarters in Sen Sok district to Chamkar Mon district’s Bokor intersection near the gas station convenience shop where Mr Ley was gunned downed on July 10, 2016.
At the Bokor Caltex gas station, party supporters laid a wreath of flowers to pay respect to Mr Ley as the GDP’s prime ministerial candidate Yang Saing Koma spoke to reporters.
“We came here today to pay tribute to the soul of Kem Ley on his two-year murder anniversary,” said Mr Saing Koma. “He was the main contributor in the founding of the GDP and we consider him as the founder and we need to pay gratitude to him and his soul. We wish that his soul will take care of our party so that justice will be found for all of society.”
The GDP was joined by multiple civil society organisations at the gas station, including the Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association and human right group Adhoc.
Rong Chhun, an advisor with the teacher association, said that he wanted the government to reinvestigate Mr Ley’s slaying to find the real perpetrator, arguing that the man jailed for life over the murder was a scapegoat.
“We still remember Kem Ley, who dared to speak the truth in society; we respect and admire his bravery,” Mr Chhun said. “The authorities arrested Chuop Samlap, a fake killer, and we want authorities to form a committee tasked with finding the real killer.”
“We don’t think the authorities are incapable of finding witnesses to the crime; they could find the real suspects in just two or three days,” he added. “However, when it comes to high-profile cases the process is very sluggish and this causes scepticism among the public; to clear this doubt, they need to find the real killer.”
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior investigator with Adhoc, said that authorities were unable to find justice in the case, which made people distrust state institutions.
“The inability to find justice will make people lose belief in state institutions, and the international community will be sceptical of how the law is enforced,” Mr Sen Karuna said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to comment. Municipal court spokesman Ly Sophanna did not reply to request for comment.
Mr Saing Koma also told the press that he felt his party was being treated unfairly by authorities, citing a lack of police security detail assigned to his party’s march when compared to CPP marches.
“Why is it unfair to us? We just want a chance to compete in a free and fair environment. When the CPP was rallying, hundreds of security forces were escorting it, but why can’t we have the forces protecting our party?” Mr Saing Koma said.
He said the GDP is considering sending a complaint to the National Election Committee.
“So far the rally has been smooth, but this morning we have a lot of problems because we do not have police officers facilitating traffic,” he said.
However, down from the Bokor gas station, ten police officers were seen accompanying the rally and easing the traffic flow for the GDP to Moha Muntrey pagoda where supporters took a break before heading to Wat Chas pagoda in the afternoon.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said that the NEC would address complaints from any political parties.
“Before the campaign, the NEC and the Interior Ministry issued a joint statement ordering local authorities to facilitate the marches of all parties,” he said. “However, if any political party has problems, they have the right to file complaints and we will address them.”
During the break at Moha Muntrey pagoda, Mr Saing Koma shot down allegations that the GDP was a CPP puppet, saying that his party was established to win the election on July 29.
“We fielded our representatives nationwide and we have 275 candidates and are in this competition to win,” he said. “I would like to send this message: Don’t look down on us or underestimate us.”