Chevron Subpoenaed Over Kem Ley Murder Case

Oil giant Chevron has been ordered by a U.S. district court judge to turn over a wide range of documents and information it may possess relating to the murder of political analyst Kem Ley at a Phnom Penh Caltex gas station in July last year.

The subpoena, signed by Judge Donna Ryu of the U.S. district court of Northern California on Friday, compels a wide range of Chevron employees who may have had contact with Cambodian government officials or police—including two managers whose job it was to visit the store—to turn over any electronic records or company-issued devices containing information related to the killing. Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 while drinking his morning coffee inside the station.

People gather outside a Caltex Star Mart after the fatal shooting of political analyst Kem Ley in Phnom Penh in July 2016. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The order uses an array of search terms, spanning the period from July 1, last year to the end of that year, to determine relevancy to the case.

The search terms, in both English and Khmer, include “Kem,” “Ley,” “Hun Sen,” and a bevy of locales (Phnom, Cambodia, Caltex, Bokor or Monivong) combined with keywords (assassin!, kill!, shoot!, murder!, death or victim.)

The subpoena also includes the search term “CCP,” apparently instead of the ruling party’s moniker, CPP. Asked about the three-letter abbreviation on Sunday, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who filed the case against Chevron and is currently in self-imposed exile in France, said that it was a spelling mistake and his lawyer would be able to correct the problem before the search was executed.

The U.S. court order gives Chevron a deadline of August 25 to file a “[Proposed] Production and Protective Order,” which would lay out any claims of confidentiality or privilege the oil giant intends to apply to any relevant documents, and then gives the corporation an additional 21 days after that filing to produce all “responsive documents” requested by Mr. Rainsy.

Police officers inspect the scene of Kem Ley’s murder at a Caltex gas station in Phnom Penh on July 10 last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Rainsy has repeatedly accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of ordering the daylight assassination of Kem Ley, a popular and widely beloved analyst and frequent government critic.

The premier retaliated in August last year by accusing the former opposition leader of incitement and defamation, resulting in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicting Mr. Rainsy in March and sentencing him in absentia to 20 months in prison.

Since the U.S. case was filed in December, it has mostly consisted of legal back-and-forth between lawyers for Mr. Rainsy and Chevron, which owns and operates Caltex in Cambodia.

It began with Mr. Rainsy requesting surveillance footage from the day of Kem Ley’s murder, which Chevron said it had already turned over to Cambodian authorities and no longer possessed.

The case has since expanded to encompass a wider range of information, as Mr. Rainsy’s lawyers have argued that their client’s defamation case in Cambodia justified the exploration because evidence of Mr. Hun Sen’s involvement in the murder could prove Mr. Rainsy’s claim true, and thus exonerate him of defamation in a Cambodian court.

Correction: A paragraph has been removed after Mr. Rainsy clarified that his lawyer intends to correct the “CCP” search term.

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