Cambodian police arrest 7 marking death of government critic

Cambodian police say they have detained seven people in connection with activities marking the third anniversary of the killing of a prominent government critic

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Seven people in Cambodia have been detained in connection with activities marking the third anniversary of the killing of a prominent government critic, police said Wednesday.

Political analyst Kem Ley was shot dead at a convenience store in the capital, Phnom Penh, on July 10, 2016. The killing took place shortly after he spoke on radio about a report alleging that long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen's family had taken advantage of its connections for financial gain.

Several dozen people including Buddhist monks tried to hold a ceremony Wednesday at the site of the killing but were blocked by police.

General Chhay Kim Khouen, the National Police spokesman, said three people were arrested Wednesday for handing out leaflets at the site and four others were arrested Tuesday for printing T-shirts with provocative wording.

"They printed T-shirts bearing words that incite the public, which can lead to social unrest," Chhay Kim Khouen said. "They also organized a religious ceremony without permission and distributed leaflets illegally to make the people upset with the government."

He said the T-shirts featured a picture of Kem Ley on the front and a message the government deemed offensive on the back.

Chhay Kim Khouen said the seven are being detained while they are questioned by police but he declined to answer whether they would be released or formally charged by a court.

In late May, the Supreme Court upheld a life prison sentence for Oeut Ang, who was convicted of murdering Kem Ley.

Oeut Ang claimed he shot Kem Ley over an alleged loan he failed to pay back. However, it was widely speculated that the killing was politically motivated because of Kem Ley's commentaries about Hun Sen.

Tens of thousands of people joined Kem Ley's funeral in protest of Hun Sen's authoritarian rule, which hardened after the killing, with the closure of independent media and a court decision that dissolved the only credible opposition party ahead of a 2018 general election.