Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has submitted a request to a U.S. court asking energy giant Chevron to release surveillance footage of government critic Kem Ley’s murder at one of its Caltex stations in Phnom Penh.
The lawsuit at the U.S. District Court, dated December 13 and signed by Cambodian citizens, calls upon Chevron to release documents and recordings from the period before and after Kem Ley’s July 10 murder.
It asks for the release of “all audio or video recordings taken during the period of July 1-14, 2016” in and around the Caltex gas station and its Star Mart convenience store, where the shooting occurred.
The request also seeks documents identifying the names of managers and employees at the station during the same period, including those who resigned in the weeks after the shooting.
It also asks for the release of “all communications with any agent, employee or instrumentality of the Cambodian government” regarding Kem Ley’s assassination.
The document states that Mr. Rainsy, who is currently living in exile in Paris to avoid prison for a conviction widely perceived to be politically motivated, seeks to prove government involvement in the killing.
“It is widely believed that Cambodian government officials were involved in the assassination as part of an effort to quell dissent in the run-up to the Communal Elections set for June 2017,” it states.
“The requested discovery will help Applicant Sam [Rainsy]…establish the government’s involvement, if any, in the underlying crime,” it says.
Contacted on Friday, the opposition leader said the footage was “key evidence” in getting to the bottom of the case.
“The footage of Kem Ley’s murder will be a key [piece of] evidence for a serious investigation to find out the real murderers and to unmask their mastermind,” Mr. Rainsy said in an email.
He said he believed a positive outcome in the U.S. was likely as the court was outside the purview of the Cambodian government.
“The chances are pretty good before the independent court in California where I have submitted the judicial request. I think the tapes may be in the ‘cloud,’ which the Cambodian authorities cannot reach,” he said.
Mr. Rainsy is being prosecuted in absentia for defamation and incitement for accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, but not the premier specifically, of orchestrating Kem Ley’s murder. Opposition Senator Thak Lany was sentenced to 18 months in prison in absentia last month for accusing Mr. Hun Sen of being directly involved, a charge she has denied.
Within an hour of the shooting, Oeuth Ang, who identified himself as “Chuop Samlap,” which translates as “Meet Kill,” had been identified as the killer, with the suspect claiming he had shot Kem Ley over an unpaid debt. Family and friends of Mr. Ang have said they had never even heard him utter Kem Ley’s name.
Since the murder, perceived inaction by authorities has stoked suspicions among the public that it was a government-ordered hit. Authorities have denied any role in the murder, but said that the shooter was likely a hired gunman.
Caltex is a subsidiary of Chevron, which is based in San Francisco, California. Chevron’s representative in Cambodia did not respond to a request for comment.
wright@cambodiadaily.com
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