Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kem Ley laid to rest at home in Takeo

Kem Ley laid to rest at home in Takeo

People carry a portrait of slain political activist Kem Ley past his coffin yesterday during his burial ceremony in Takeo.
People carry a portrait of slain political activist Kem Ley past his coffin yesterday during his burial ceremony in Takeo. Heng Chivoan

Kem Ley laid to rest at home in Takeo

Just before midday yesterday, following a mix of traditional Chinese and Khmer rites, the body of political analyst Kem Ley was buried behind his family home in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district.

Hundreds of mourners watched on as music from a traditional band’s drums, kong vong (circle of gongs) and roneat (Khmer xylophone) rose and pallbearers lowered the wooden coffin into the raised mound, where a stupa will eventually be built.

After circling the coffin and making offerings, Ley’s wife Bou Rachana said she felt calmer with Ley, who was gunned down in a Phnom Penh gas station on July 10, put to rest, following the 15-day funeral service.

“He rests in peace,” Rachana said.

In a moving speech before the anti-government critic was carried to the burial site, member of the funeral committee Soy Visal paid tribute to Ley, saying his soul would live on through all his supporters.

“It has been many generations already that Khmers have been oppressed, put into silence, frightened and traumatised, but he arrived in time and reminded us all to stand up,” Visal, who is an editor at media outlet Voice of Democracy, said.

“When we recall his words: that if I Kem Ley die, wipe your tears and continue to walk forward, this makes us sob and hurt and great pity touches our hearts. [But] even the people who want to destroy us, we have to help them as well; it means that we help them find the right path.”

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people on Sunday joined a funeral procession from Phnom Penh’s Wat Chas to Takeo to farewell Ley and celebrate his legacy of speaking out and “telling the truth”, as many put it.

People scatter earth over Kem Ley’s coffin yesterday during a funeral ceremony at the family home in Takeo’s Tram Kak district.
People scatter earth over Kem Ley’s coffin yesterday during a funeral ceremony at the family home in Takeo’s Tram Kak district. Heng Chivoan

As well as the grief on display, there was a sense of hope among attendees spoken to by the Post that Ley’s death would mark a turning point in Cambodia.

“Now, after his death, I think most people will wake up and stand up for their own rights and country,” said Ley’s friend Lavy Sayumborn, a Cambodian who flew from her home in Australia to attend the service.

Phou Phim, a 64-year-old re-tired teacher from Takeo town, said he hoped Ley’s death would be the catalyst to improve democracy in Cambodia. “He taught people a lot,” Phim said.

Though his alleged killer has claimed he shot the analyst over a debt, many believe Ley’s killing was politically motivated.

Blame was quickly directed at the government, though officials have strenuously denied involvement and vowed to find the “real killer” or “conspiracy” behind the murder.

Speaking at the funeral yesterday, Sok Touch, head of the state’s Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the burden fell on the government to provide justice, though asked that the analyst’s death not be used to “divide” Cambodians.

Boeung Kak land activist Tep Vanny said her group – which this week suspended their “Black Monday” campaign to free several jailed human rights workers in order to attended the funeral – would fight for the truth.

“Our purpose will remain the same . . . but we will add this new case, because we want real justice for him,” Vanny said.

Reached yesterday, government spokesman Phay Siphan pledged the hunt would continue, though, like Prime Minister Hun Sen and other ruling party officials, he cast aspersions on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, suggesting they had more to gain from Ley’s death.

“We don’t let murderers kill people as they see fit; please let the authorities investigate more,” Siphan said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway