A year after Kem Ley was gunned down, his ideas live on in a group of young people led by analyst and researcher Hang Pitou.
“It was Mr Ley’s idea,” Mr Pitou said last week at the University of Pannasastra in Phnom Penh.
Mr Pitou, 27, formed the Young Analyst group in September 2015 and is its leader.
He was born in Banteay Meanchey province’s Angkor Borei district and graduated with a master’s degree in political science in Bangkok.
He met Mr Ley when the murdered analyst was on a mission to carry out social work research.
Mr Ley trained Mr Pitou and 40 other youths in a workshop on social research, because he wanted to see young people use their time for the benefit of their country and society.
“I gathered young people to create this group regarding his ideas,” Mr Pitou said.
“Our first goal is training young analysts and researchers about political, social, economic and cultural issues. We want youth to raise their voices in society.”
He said analysts express their opinions on situations they see in society and evaluate government developments.
“It does not matter if you are a young analyst or an old analyst. If you are professional in your analysis it can help society.”
He said analysts must be neutral and independent, without bias towards any political party and without personal conflicts.
Some members had left the group in fear for their safety after Mr Ley’s death, he said, since doubts persist that justice has been done, despite the life sentence for the alleged killer.
Now the group has ten members, each with specific skills in politics, economics, society, literature and culture.
“We were really worried about our security and safety. No job is free of risk, but we have to be willing to do this,” Mr Pitou said.
He said his group always consider four points. The first is to base their work on sufficient documents and genuine sources from national and international organisations, as well as the government.
The second is to maintain a neutral stance without bias at all times, stating facts and not exaggerating stories.
The third is to seek solutions to the issues they raise and the fourth is to encourage parties to work together.
Mr Pitou said his dream is to give youths the opportunity to join a group of young analysts in the future.
“Our mission is to attract young people to thinking about the nation and social issues rather than wasting time on gambling and useless matters,” he said.
Through their association with Mr Ley, the Young Analysts have been featured in news outlets, round table discussions, public forums and field trips to communities.
Mr. Pitou said young people did not want regime change, like Pol Pot, or when Lon Nol toppled King Norodom Sihanouk.
“A professional analyst only says things that are true. They don’t say things to protect anyone,” Mr Pitou said.
“We are absolutely against any accusation our group takes the side of any political parties. If any of our members was to show bias over any political party we would kick them out of our group. We are independent.”
Group member Pheng Sreyleak, 24, said she appreciated having a job in which she could share her knowledge with citizens so they would understand the situation in the country.
“I am fearful about security and safety but we dare to speak the truth,” Ms Sreyleak said.
She said she noticed young people starting to voice concerns about social issues after the national elections in 2013.
Many activists from political parties visited communities, as did those working to protect the environment and forestry.
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