Meet Kill

Sebastian Strangio

Buddhist monks and family members perform a ceremony for Kem Ley at the gas station where he was shot. Photograph: John Vink

This is no country for decent and outspoken men. On 10 July, at just after half-past eight in the morning, Dr Kem Ley, a prominent Cambodian political commentator and grassroots organiser, was shot and killed while drinking coffee at a Caltex service station in downtown Phnom Penh. The bullets were fired from close range by an unemployed former soldier who was picked up in the street by police shortly afterwards, blood streaming from his head after being pummelled by an angry mob. When asked for his name, the sinewy forty-three-year-old offered a chilling sobriquet: “Chuob Samlap” — literally, “Meet Kill”. Meanwhile, Kem Ley died almost instantly, sprawled backwards on the shiny mini-mart floor.

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