The community at Vat Khemarangsaram Cambodian Buddhist Temple at Bonnyrigg gathered to remember the life, work and courage of Dr Kem Ley, a Cambodian activist who was killed in 2016 in Cambodia.
The local ceremony, which was held here on July 7, was one of five memorial ceremonies conducted in cities across Australia on the second anniversary of Dr Ley’s death.
At a troubled time for democracy in Cambodia, Dr Ley has become a symbol for those who believe democracy has been undermined by the Hun Sen government.
Dr Ley originally worked in Cambodia as a researcher for non-government organisations.
After a widely disputed election in Cambodia in 2013, he became a public commentator on social and political issues and a leading critic of corruption and human-rights abuses.
Cambodians at home and in Australia followed his Facebook page, which shone a light on the business interests of family members of the Prime Minister, Hun Sen.
Wipe away your tears and continue the journey.Kem Ley's motto
After his assassination, the outpouring of grief saw more than a million people accompany his coffin from the capital of Phnom Penh to his resting place in his home town.
The ceremony in Bonnyrigg was organised by the Cambodian Buddhist Society of NSW, which also raised funds for his widow and children who now live in Melbourne.
The monks, who helped decorate the temple for the occasion, began the vigil with Buddhist chants.
The president of the Cambodian Society, Thin Em, then opened the ceremony and invited Sabouphary Tuy to deliver the eulogy and speak of Dr Ley’s life as a revered fighter for justice.
“His example of bravery teaches us to reclaim our democracy. Though he’s gone his legacy is remembered by millions of Khmer around the world.”
He ended with Dr Ley’s motto: “Wipe away your tears and continue the journey.”
Sorathy Pouk Michell wrote a poem in Khmer for the occasion in honour of Dr Ley, read out at the ceremony by Sorn Yin.
She wrote: “His example of bravery and sacrifice teaches our generation to reclaim our freedom and democracy.
“Though he’s gone, his legacy is still remembered and admired by millions of Khmer around the world.”
The poem was also read at the Melbourne and Adelaide vigils and Dr Ley’s widow, Bou Rachana, who attended the Melbourne vigil, was given a copy.
The Bonnyrigg vigil ended with people, in turns, placing a flower in front of a shrine for Dr Ley.
- GALLERY ONLINE