A well-known political analyst and critic of Cambodia's government has been shot dead. Supporters stopped police from removing the body over concerns that authorities would not conduct a thorough investigation.
Kem Ley, a Cambodian political commentator was killed in Phnom Penh on Sunday morning, police confirmed. The 45-year-old, who was a frequent critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen, was shot three times outside a convenience store.
Shortly after the shooting, police officers said they arrested a 38-year-old suspect, who said he killed Kem Ley because he did not pay back a $3,000 loan.
"The suspect said the motive of the killing was about Kem Ley owing money. But we don't believe him yet," said National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith, according to the "Phnom Penh Post."
"We are still questioning him," the spokesman added.
Following the shooting, hundreds of people gathered at the site, including the shooting victim's pregnant widow and one of their four children.
Onlookers set up makeshift memorials and refused to let ambulances remove the body. Some worried that authorities would try to cremate the body without an investigation or even without a funeral.
Instead, the crowd - including several dozen monks - brought the body to a Buddhist temple to begin funeral rights.
Kem Ley often appeared in Cambodian-language newspapers and on television and radio services like Radio Free Asia and Voice of America to discuss national politics. He also founded a grassroots advocacy group to promote local political groups throughout Cambodia.
He was critical of both the government and opposition parties, but the bulk of his critique was aimed at Hun Sen's ruling party.
His death comes just days after a Global Witness report was released, detailing how the Cambodian prime minister amassed a multi-million dollar business empire. The report accused Hun Sen's family of maintaining their grip on power through corruption.
Last week, Kem Ley welcomed the report in a radio interview, saying it would help voters and foreign investors better understand how Cambodia's political elite became so wealthy.
The nation is set to hold a general election in 2018.
rs/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)