21 January 2012
By Taing Sarada
Radio Free Asia
Translated from Khmer by Soch
Click here to read the original article in Khmer
During the 8th anniversary of the murder of Chea Vichea, the former President of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) who was assassinated [in Phnom Penh], his family still demands that the Cambodian government shows the real killers and bring them to face justice in order to provide justice to the victim.
During the past 8 years, pain and sorrow still haunt Chea Vichea’s family and scene of his murder still follow them when justice is not provided to them.
Chea Kimny, Chea Vichea’s wife, now lives in Finland with two young daughters, the oldest one is 10 and the youngest one is now 7
Choking, Chea Kimny talked about her weak health condition. Both her and her older daughter suffer emotionally and her mental pain led her to feel pain all over the body.
Chea Kimny said that, in spite of her health condition, she is doing all she can to raise her daughters well, just as her husband asked her.
Chea Vichea’s eldest daughter reminisced over the phone about the past when her father would take her to his workplace or to newspaper kiosks near Wat Langka pagoda.
Chea Vichea was shot by unknown assailants in the middle of Phnom Penh on 22 January 2004 after he was threatened several times over the phone because of his work to defend the rights of workers from being trampled by garment factory owners in Cambodia.
In 2004, Cambodia was one of the largest garment exporters in the world. Several factories were set up by investors and tens of thousands of poor workers were hired, the majority of whom were young women from rural areas.
The ILO 2005 report indicated that in 2004, the US was the largest market for Cambodian garments. Garment export to the US amounted to $2 billion per year whereas workers only earn $45 to $50 per month.
Chea Vichea – who was named workers’ hero for his demand for decent salary for workers –was able to call tens of thousands of workers for non-violent street demonstrations.
Even if he passed away, his fame and his honor is still engraved in the memory of the national and international public because of his demands for freedom and decent living conditions for poor factory workers.
After his assassination, in 2007, two other union leaders, Hy Vuthy and Ros Sovannareth, were also shot and killed. Up to now, the Cambodian cops have not yet produced any culprits in all these cases.
Chea Mony, Chea Vichea’s younger brother and the current president of the FTUWKC, said that the Cambodian government is behind the killing of all these union leaders. However, high ranking government officials rejected Chea Mony’s accusation and they claimed that the Cambodian cops still continue to pursue these cases.
Khieu Sopheak, the mouthpiece of the ministry of Interior, said that the Cambodian cop has not closed the investigations into the murder of Chea Vichea, Ros Sovannareth and Hy Vuthy yet.
Nevertheless, Chea Mony said that Khieu Sopheak’s claim is nothing more than an excuse, in reality, the Cambodian government is not following up in any of these cases.
Phay Siphan, mouthpiece of the Council of Ministers, said that the Cambodian government did not neglect the search for the culprits in these cases and he said that any suspicion on the government being behind these cases can only be judged by the court.
Following the murder of Chea Vichea, the Phnom Penh cops, then led by Heng Pov, arrested two imaginary killers, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. The pair was picked up at two different locations. They were forced by the cops to confess to the alleged crimes and the Phnom Penh municipal tribunal sentenced both men to 20 years of jail each.
On 31 December 2008, the Supreme Court decided to temporarily release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and it ordered the Appeal Court to reopen the investigation into this case.
In mid-January 2009, Licadho, a human rights group in Cambodia, reported that the charge and the jailing of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun for the past 5 years was a serious mistake.
Even if both of them were jailed for 5 years and they were both affected emotionally, up to now, no Cambodian cops or tribunals had come out to accept their responsibility in this case yet.
Dr. Pung Chiv Kek, President of Licadho, called on the Cambodian authority to take measure to arrest the true killers so that impunity would not render Cambodian law impotent and making it untrustworthy.
Since 1998, major crimes perpetrated on movie stars, singers, union leaders, reporters, monks and political activists have remained unresolved and no culprit was ever brought in to face justice yet.