Activist held over Kem Ley t-shirts

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Authorities detain an environmental activist yesterday after he joined an attempted gathering to mark the anniversary of Kem Ley’s murder. KT/Siv Channa

Police in Phnom Penh yesterday sent activist Kong Raiya to court after accusing him of incitement for selling t-shirts of slain political analyst Kem Ley on Facebook.

Mr Ley, a government critic, was shot and killed at a Caltex gas station in Chamkar Mon district on July 10, 2016, as he was having his morning coffee.

Although Oeuth Ang, or Chuop Samlap, confessed to being the gunman, Mr Raiya was sceptical whether the man was solely responsible.

Mr Raiya and his wife on Tuesday took to Facebook to sell t-shirts bearing the portrait of Mr Ley and his quotes on the back of the products.

Kong Raiya has been accused of incitement over the sale of his Kem Ley t-shirts. Fresh News

“If you do nothing, you will be victmised. It is just not your turn yet,” one t-shirt said.

In the same post, Mr Raiya urged activists to participate in marking the death of Mr Ley at the gas station where he was killed.

Mr Raiya, who previously served time in jail for incitement for calling for a change of government, was then arrested a few hours later with his wife and two others at their home in Sen Sok district.

Lieutenant General Sar Thet, chief of municipal police, yesterday said Mr Raiya was sent to court for further action, while his wife and the two others were released.

“Mr Raiya took the lead. His act could have caused social insecurity,” Lt Gen Thet said. “We must take legal action against him.” “He was sentenced before, but he still committed the crime,” he added. “We can’t forgive him.” He noted that the other

three were allowed to return home after they agreed to sign a contract promising to stop their activity.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager with human rights group Licadho, yesterday said the accusation against Mr Raiya was unreasonable, and that his post on Facebook was to promote the t-shirts.

“It’s too serious for the authorities to accuse him of incitement to commit a crime,” Mr Sam Ath said. “His post does not encourage or order anyone to commit wrongdoing.”

“He sells t-shirts with Mr Ley’s photos in order to attract Mr Ley’s supporters,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chamkar Mon district police yesterday detained three people for attempting to lay a wreath for Mr Ley at the Caltex gas station as they broke up an attempted ceremony to mark the anniversary of Mr Ley’s death.

Those detained included Soeng Neakpoan, vice president of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association, and environ- mental activists Chum Hout and Chum Hour.

The trio appeared at the gas station to lay the wreath despite a warning to not do so from City Hall, which said that the ceremony would affect public order.

A police officer who identified himself as Leng Kimlong said police blocked Mr Ley’s supporters from marking his death, adding that the gas station welcomes hundreds of customers per day.

“The action was taken to ensure social order and security for the owners of the gas station and the mart,” Mr Kimlong said. “Police must take action to handle the situation.”

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun told reporters yesterday he was disappointed over the blockage, adding that people honour Mr Ley for the social work he did when he was alive.

“We notified the authorities about the marking, but they banned us from doing it,” Mr Chhun said. “I came here alone as a citizen, but they did not allow me to enter the site. This is very disappointing.”

Mr Ang, who was convicted of killing Mr Ley, was sentenced to life in prison by Phnom Penh Municipal Court in March 2017.

According to a statement issued by 24 NGOs on Tuesday, 164 organisations signed a joint letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng to call for an independent inquiry into Mr Ley’s case.

The group said the subsequent investigations into the killing lacked scrutiny of suspected accomplices, and that it has found irregularities during the trial of Mr Ang.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said the court made the right call when it convicted Mr Ang.

Mr Malin noted that the court is still looking into others who may have been involved in the killing of Mr Ley.

“I can’t tell you who the court has identified to be the mastermind behind the murder since an investigation is still on-going,” he said.

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