Analyst’s Murder Highlights Cambodian Misrule
Dictator Hun Sen uses brutality to maintain power & erode international confidence, writes Nate Thayer
July 11, 2016
Minutes after prominent Cambodian independent political analyst Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight, police arrested a “suspect” who had “confessed” to the assassination.
Within hours, a video of the suspect’s interrogation—the man bleeding from the head and scared witless—was released to the TV Station BTV, which is 100 percent owned by the daughter of the Cambodian dictator Hun Sen. The arrested suspect was asked his name by police. “Juap Samlab,” he answered, lips quivering.
“Juap Samlab” translates directly in English as “Meet Death” or “Meet Killed.” A more literal translation would be “To be killed upon encountering.”
There is not a mother in Cambodia who would give her son such a name.
Kem Ley’s assassination–and make no mistake, this was a targeted political killing ordered by the highest level ruling powers in Cambodia—is the normal rhythm of life under Hun Sen’s government. There are uncountable precedents of murder that stretch back decades.
“Whenever I make a criticism, I never expect myself to be alive,” Kem Ley said recently.
Trail of Death
Not a single case, out of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of murders carried out by Hun Sen’s regime in the last 30 years has ever been brought to justice. This includes hundreds of political opponents who were murdered during the United Nations-controlled runup to elections in 1993. It includes the 16 killed and more than 100 wounded when government agents with grenades attacked a peaceful rally led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy in March, 1997. It includes the hundreds more who were hunted down, tortured and assassinated three months later in July 1997 when Hun Sen launched a coup d’état and wiped out the opposition to his rule.
It includes numerous others murdered prior to and during the 1998 so-called elections which cemented Hun Sen’s rule in power. And it includes hundreds in the 20 years since that Hun Sen has led his country to the precipice of collapse, an embarrassment to the comparably more-properly organized community of nations in Asia.
“Villagers feel totally helpless as they see no recourse against official arbitrary violence and abuses. Deprived of any means to seek justice, even when their children are taken away and being murdered, they swallow their anger and sadness, bow to the powers that be, accept with resignation their fate and withdraw in silence, knowing after long years of oppressive experience that words can kill,” reads a Confidential UN Center for Human Rights report from 1994 leaked to this reporter.
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