Interview: Kem Ley’s Wife Says Jailed Killer Is ‘Fake’

5 min read
Bou Rachana drives away in a car carrying her murdered husband’s body in Phnom Penh on July 10, 2016. (VOD)

Bou Rachana has lived without her husband for five years now. Kem Ley, a political analyst, was shot dead at Phnom Penh’s Bokor Caltex gas station on July 10, 2016 while she was pregnant with their fifth child.

Though a killer — who gave his name to court as Choup Samlab, or “Meet Kill” — was tried and sentenced to life in prison in 2017, the bereaved wife says she is still in pain, raising their children alone in Australia, and has no faith in receiving true justice.

A screenshot of Bou Rachana, wife of slain political analyst Kem Ley, at her home in Australia during an interview with VOD Khmer aired July 10, 2021, the fifth anniversary of her husband's death.
A screenshot of Bou Rachana, wife of slain political analyst Kem Ley, at her home in Australia during an interview with VOD Khmer aired July 10, 2021, the fifth anniversary of her husband’s death.

Morn Moniroth, senior VOD reporter: I want to have your comments as the doctor’s wife: How much faith do you have in the case in which the court has said it is investigating the person behind the murder?

Bou Rachana, Kem Ley’s wife: In fact, the court’s actions as set out are air. We all know that them splitting the case in two is only a pretext. It was their pretext at that time.

They did not take any action and also no investigation — [not even] one step or two steps. There has been none. They said it in order not to be quiet when asked for information. I have no trust, even a little bit. I have none at all.

Moniroth: Does that mean that this case may not be able to progress, based on your view?

Rachana: This case will go generally as it has been seen. From the beginning, we were not questioned at all from the day of his death until the day we moved the body. The authorities never contacted the families of the victims. Yes, it was completely closed.

They were obstructive during the time of the funerals, marching with the body and everything. I ask: Have they ever shown us any footage about the murder case? Instead some have said that I saw surveillance footage, that the authorities and the court showed it to us. Even though we never heard, never knew, never saw, not even a little bit — no information, no telling us how far the case had gone and what it was. There was nothing.

Everything was their plan to close it up completely. And as it can be seen, when I came out to Bangkok, when I gave birth, they started doing something, issuing a summons for us to join.

I ask whether I ever filed a complaint for them to summon me to participate, because this was a trick to close our case. We did not go, so the case will end up like this. That is what they want: to shut it down. They don’t want to have anything more — close our case under the pretext that they summoned us and we did not go.

You know, I gave birth and it had only been one week. I ask: How would we have gone? How would we have gone? And we did not file a complaint or do anything. We do not need anything. We also had no idea to file a complaint because we think it is useless and they have no ability to find it for us.

They cannot find the real killer. There is only the fake killer, the plastic killer. So with all that, the cases are closed and it was done to close the case. In short, they closed our case completely.

And since then, they are pretending to split the case in two, and now we have seen and they claimed that there is an investigation of the people involved and behind it. There is none. It is all air. They just said it to have information for publishing.

Moniroth: Looking at the actions of the authorities and the court, as you said you have no faith, but as a family, will you still call for justice?

Rachana: For me, I still want justice, but I do not hope that the Cambodian government will find it for me, because we know that if they want to find it for us, if they know how much we suffer injustice, they would have started immediately, when the case happened. It cannot be hidden until the fake camera is set up. It was a show that came out improperly and completely opposite to everything.

I have no hope and I do not insist on anything more because it is hopeless. There is no need to hope. Not only my family, but also Chut Wutty and Chea Vichea’s family. How many years already? And I ask: What have they gotten?

Injustice will continue and we don’t know how many more years it will continue, and they do not care. The important thing is that they do not care. Whoever dies, they do not care, they only think of their own power and they only protect themselves.

The people who live in the country, who are their people, they do not care. Whoever dies, just dies. Wherever justice is, let it be. They do not care, they even just keep hiding. It hurts very much for me. I raise all five children alone, and in other countries. It is very difficult for me. It hurts. The pain will not go away. It will remain with me forever.

Moniroth: Do you have any call to supporters in Cambodia on the five-year anniversary? Do you have messages of thanks to those who still support the doctor?

Rachana: Yes! I am still grateful. I still admire and am impressed by their heroism, those who have participated in the past without fear of intimidation, obstacles, persecution of all kinds. They still overcome it to act, no matter how little he can or can’t do. They still act. I see what they do; I feel excited. It’s not that my husband died and we are excited with what they have done. It’s not that. But their moods and hearts still have respect, still know his merits, still know the worth that he sacrificed.

(Transcribed and translated from the original interview on VOD Khmer)

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