Critics of Cambodia's Hun Sen refuse to be silenced in Australia

They had just finished breakfast together when he left to meet some students for a chat over coffee. She received a call soon after, informing her that he had been gunned down in broad daylight.

Critics of Cambodia's Hun Sen refuse to be silenced in Australia

World Bulletin / News Desk

From the safety of suburban Australia, Bou Rachna recalls the hours before her husband Kem Ley, a prominent Cambodian political analyst, was shot dead at a Phnom Penh gas station in a 2016 killing that rattled the nation.

"He never did anything for himself," Bou Rachna told AFP of her late husband. "He did everything for Cambodia, so that it could have freedom, real democracy, independent courts and respect for human rights."

She and her five children arrived in Australia last month where they were granted asylum after hiding for more than a year in Thailand.

But reminders of the violence that felled Kem Ley have followed them, with death threats mailed to the family ahead of a visit to Sydney by Cambodia's strongman leader Hun Sen for a special Australia-ASEAN summit this week.

Australia's hosting of the summit, which will focus on economic ties and counter-terrorism cooperation, is not without controversy.

Critics say Canberra has a patchy record on rights in Southeast Asia with Human Rights Watch warning that the government should not "dance with dictators".

While Australia granted asylum to Kem Ley's family, it also struck a controversial deal with Hun Sen's government to take in a small number of refugees refused Australian asylum in exchange for $55 million in aid.

Despite the death threats, Bou Rachna is determined to speak out from her new home, and believes her husband was silenced for his criticism of the Cambodian regime. 

Little-known outside Cambodia, Kem Ley was a popular analyst and critic at home, who focused on corruption and land-grabbing that continues to plague the country.

He criticised politicians of all shades, often speaking to rural and urban Cambodians on Khmer-language radio.

Last Mod: 16 Mart 2018, 11:09
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