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Activist charged with incitement over Kem Ley t-shirt sales

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Police escort Kong Raiya at the court. KT/Siv Channa

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday charged activist Kong Raiya with incitement to commit a felony after he was arrested over the selling of t-shirts bearing the image and quotes of slain political analyst Kem Ley on Facebook.

Deputy prosecutor Riel Sophin said Mr Raiya was charged with incitement to commit a felony and that the court will proceed with the case.

“After he was questioned, I decided to charge him,” Mr Sophin said. “We will continue to question him and send the case to the investigating judge.”

If convicted, Mr Raiya could face up to two years in prison and be fined up to about $1,500.

Outside of the courtroom, Mr Raiya, who previously served 18 months in jail for the same charge, told reporters that the decision to proceed with this latest case was unjust.

“Those who mistreated me are having a nightmare,” he said. “For me, I am not worried at all.”

Mr Raiya was arrested on Tuesday after he took to Facebook to sell the t-shirts.

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

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 in 2016, a ceremony which had been banned by City Hall in order to maintain public order.

Sam Sokong, Mr Raiya’s lawyer, yesterday said his client wanted to sell t-shirts, not call for a change of government.

“The facts and evidence I have prove that he did not incite anyone to commit a crime,” Mr Sokong said. “It was his online business. Mr Raiya printed Mr Ley’s quotes and portrait to put on the t-shirts – it was based on freedom of expression.”

Aside from the arrests related to Mr Raiya, three others were arrested on Tuesday as they attempted to lay a wreath for Mr Ley at the gas station.

They are Soeng Neakpoan, vice president of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association, and environmental activists Chum Hout and Chum Hour.

According to a police report, Mr Hout and Mr Hour were released Tuesday evening after Khmer Will Party president Kong Monika agreed to sign a contract.

The report noted that Mr Neakpoan was sent to court yesterday to be questioned because he allegedly distributed leaflets to people who wanted to mark Mr Ley’s death containing the sentence “stop extrajudicial killings”.

Mr Hout yesterday said the three had no plan to call for a colour revolution, noting that they were there at the gas station to mark the third anniversary of Mr Ley’s death.

“Mr Neakpoan and I did not encourage anyone to stand up against the government,” he said. “We only exercised freedom of expression and calling for a real investigation on Mr Ley’s murder. I hope they will release Mr Neakpoan, too.”

Mr Monika, the KWP president, yesterday said all three men were innocent, and that he will raise the issue to members of the Supreme Consultative Council during an upcoming meeting.

“I will raise this matter, along with Mr Ley’s murder, during the meeting,” he said. “Mr Ley’s case was discussed months ago, but the measures taken by the Justice Ministry were not clear.”

Mr Monika noted during a previous meeting, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said an investigation to identify those behind Mr Ley’s murder was still in progress.

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, supporters like Mr Raiya were sceptical whether the man was solely responsible.

According to government officials, an investigation into Mr Ley’s killing is currently still on-going.

The United States embassy yesterday issued a statement calling on the government to conduct a thorough, transparent and credible investigation of Mr Ley’s killing.

“We also express renewed condolences to Kem Ley’s family, who are still and hoping for a full accounting of his senseless and cowardly killing,” it said in the statement.

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