Thu, Mar 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Cambodian man goes on trial for dissident’s death

AFP, PHNOM PENH

An unemployed former Cambodian soldier went on trial yesterday for the brazen daylight murder of government critic Kem Ley, a killing that sparked widespread grief in a country with a dark history of political assassinations.

Oeuth Ang, 39, was arrested shortly after he allegedly shot Kem Ley in the head while his victim was having a morning coffee at a Phnom Penh gas station in July last year.

Tens of thousands turned out for Kem Ley’s funeral in scenes that rattled the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

His more than three-decade rule has seen multiple critics murdered in rarely solved cases, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The government vowed to pursue anyone responsible for Kem Ley’s killing. As the trial got underway in Phnom Penh, prosecutors read out the police report detailing the alleged motives of Oeuth Ang.

“[It was] because he cheated me out of [US]$3,000 and he promised to build a concrete house for me,” the police report quoted Oeuth Ang as saying, adding that “nobody ordered me” to do the killing.

He has said he acted alone.

However, his motive has been questioned by Kem Ley’s wife, who has since fled to Thailand and is seeking asylum in Australia, as well as friends of both the victim and alleged perpetrator.

Cambodian media reports suggest the accused had rarely had money since leaving the army.

A man with a penchant for gambling, friends said he would spend time in Buddhist temples as a monk when he ran out of cash.

There are also questions over Oeuth Ang’s mental health.

In a leaked video of his police confession shortly after his arrest he insisted on being called Chuob Samlab, which translates as “meet to kill.”

When Judge Leang Samnath asked him at the start of the trial to identify himself he repeated the moniker.

“I am Chuob Samlab, 39. Jobless ... no family,” he said.

Kem Ley was an eloquent and charismatic critic of Cambodia’s politicians in both the ruling government and its opposition.

He had made moves to set up a new grassroots political movement which has now abandoned plans to field candidates in upcoming local elections this year.

In the days before his death, he had given interviews on a bombshell report detailing the enormous wealth accumulated by members of Hun Sen’s family.

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