Cambodians gathered across Australia to commemorate the life of much-loved Cambodian social activist, Kem Ley on the third anniversary of his death at the weekend.
More than 100 people attended a vigil on Saturday, July 13 at Wat Khemarangsaram in Bonnyrigg. The event was jointly organised by the Cambodian Buddhist Society and the Khmer Community of NSW.
Kem Ley was a popular commentator on social and political issues and in Cambodia. He was shot dead on June 10, 2016 when he went out for a morning coffee.
At Wat Khemarangsaram, volunteers made rosettes with an image of Kem Ley and gave them out as guests arrived. Inside the temple, a photo of Kem Ley was placed in front of the statue of Buddha, surrounded by candles and flowers.
Phavy Kasak, who helped light the candles before the ceremony began, said she came with her sister to pay respect to Kem Ley.
"We owe him gratitude for helping Cambodia," she said. "He was not afraid to speak out."
Vice-president of the Khmer Community Srey Kang spoke of Kem Ley's life and the way in which he had supported and inspired young people in Cambodia, quoting his best-known saying: "wipe your tears and continue your journey."
People prayed as monks chanted Buddhist prayers for his soul. The Venerable Venglim Mel, who delivered a homily, paid tribute to Kem Ley's character and integrity,
Vichet Chea performed a traditional Khmer lament he had composed for the occasion, singing of the loss for Kem Ley's wife and mother, who had not had a chance to say goodbye.
At the end of the ceremony, people took turn to lay flowers in memory of Kem Ley, mourning his loss.
"He is a hero to all of us," Srey Kang said.