New Matilda, 25 July 2016: A funeral procession of more than a million people, organisers said, accompanied the coffin of slain activist Kem Ley through Phnom Penh on Sunday as his body made the journey from the pagoda where it had lain in state for two weeks back to his home town in the provinces.
The assassination of the popular political commentator highlights an intensifying crackdown on political opposition and civil society in Cambodia which has seen opposition leaders pursued on defamation charges, parliamentarians badly beaten, and activists, monks and human rights workers arrested and held in prison in the long lead-up to national elections in 2018.
Political commentator Dr Kem Ley feared for his life but was resigned to the danger, and carried on with his work and routine.
“If we go to jail, we go together,” he told a group of young environmental activists on 9 July, according to the Phnom Penh Post, “and if they kill us, we die together”.
But Dr Ley was alone on Sunday, 10 July, when after dropping his wife at Phnom Penh’s central market he headed to the nearby Star Mart on Monivong Boulevard for his regular morning coffee.
Within minutes the 46-year-old father of four was lying dead on the floor, shot at close range in the head and chest, his coffee untouched on a table beside him.