Kem Ley’s Killer Appeals Life Sentence

A lawyer for Oeuth Ang, the former soldier found guilty last month of murdering government critic Kem Ley, has asked the Appeal Court to overturn his life sentence, arguing the punishment offered no chance for his client to redeem himself.

Mr. Ang, who initially told police his name was “Chuop Samlap,” or “Meet Kill,” was found guilty March 23 of gunning down Kem Ley inside a Phnom Penh convenience store last July and sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Kem Ley’s body is placed in his SUV before being transported to Wat Chas pagoda in Phnom Penh on July 10 last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

His lawyer, Yung Phanith, argued in an appeal filed on Thursday that the sentence was too harsh and left Mr. Ang no opportunity for rehabilitation.

“My client wants the court to consider mitigating circumstances. He says it’s too serious and he wants to have the chance to correct himself,” Mr. Phanith said on Friday.

“The life sentence — there’s no way he’s able to correct himself.”

Mr. Ang was arrested shortly after shooting Kem Ley on July 10 and was promptly paraded in front of the media under his alias, claiming that he had shot the political analyst over an unpaid $3,000 debt. The claim was refuted by the family of both men, who countered that they had never met.

The lack of transparency in the investigation did little to quell the widely held notion that the shooting was a government-ordered hit, while the trial was conducted over the course of a single morning. This led to criticism on a wide-range of issues, including the lack of in-depth cross examination of witnesses and a failure to properly challenge the plausibility of Mr. Ang’s claims.

Kem Ley’s widow, Bou Rachana — who fled the country with their sons soon after the murder — said on Friday that she still rejected the contention that Mr. Ang was even the one who pulled the trigger.

“I never acknowledged that Samlap is the real killer, so even if he has a life sentence or a half-life sentence, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

“I never trust our courts.”

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