Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chea Vichea march gets green light, with caveats

Chea Vichea march gets green light, with caveats

Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, holds incense as he prays to mark the 11th anniversary of the death of labour leader Chea Vichea in Phnom Penh on January 22 last year.
Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, holds incense as he prays to mark the 11th anniversary of the death of labour leader Chea Vichea in Phnom Penh on January 22 last year. Vireak Mai

Chea Vichea march gets green light, with caveats

City authorities will allow a ceremony to take place today to honour the 12th anniversary of union leader Chea Vichea’s assassination on one condition – that those gathered do not mention anything about politics or criticise the government.

On January 22, 2004, Vichea, leader of the Free Trade Union for garment workers, was shot dead in broad daylight at a newsstand in front of the Wat Langka pagoda in Phnom Penh. Vichea’s murderer was never found, though two men later vindicated spent a combined 10 years in jail for the crime.

His death caused an uproar, largely due to his popularity as a union leader and to his high-profile support of the political opposition.

The FTU, now led by Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony, filed a request with city authorities to gather by the scene of the murder to commemorate Vichea – a request that was granted, but with a few preconditions, according to Deputy Phnom Penh Governor Khoung Seng.

“We allow the participation of around 150 to 200 people, so they can do a religious ceremony and say a message like asking the government to expedite the process of finding the murderer who killed Chea Vichea . . . but they cannot say anything related to politics or criticise the government leaders or demand to increase garment workers’ salaries,” Seng said in an interview. “If they still talk about politics, we will take action, but I can’t tell you what.”

Mony confirmed a largely religious gathering of about 150 workers and unionists will take place today in front of a statue of Vichea erected near the scene.

But Mony declined to comment on whether he had agreed to authorities’ conditions.

“I have no comment about what city hall said, but the participants have the right to speak their opinion in public,” he said.

There have long been lingering suspicions surrounding Vichea’s assassination. The 2011 documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea? was banned in Cambodia because of its implication that authorities ordered the hit.

In September of last year, the government announced the creation of a new inter-ministerial commission to investigate the killing, which has so far yielded no results.

Kem Ley, a grassroots political activist, said the government’s banning of political speech during Vichea’s commemoration was “very bad” and reminiscent of an “old culture” of top-down leadership.

“They don’t want to hear any criticism,” he said.

Additional reporting by Charles Rollet

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all