Union leaders and garment workers attempting to view a controversial documentary today on the murder of labour leader Chea Vichea were thwarted when the owner of the local restaurant where they had gathered cut the electricity in the building.
Representatives of the Free Trade Union – which Chea Vichea headed at the time of his assassination in 2004 – gathered today along with officials from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and the embassy of the United Kingdom in an attempt to screen the 2009 documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea? by American director Bradley Cox.
The film investigates Chea Vichea’s murder and the dubious charges against two men initially accused of the crime, suggesting that government officials may have in fact helped plan the killing.
Gathering at Daun Penh’s New World restaurant, those attending the screening got about 25 minutes into the film before the power in the building was cut off and restaurant security ordered a halt to the proceedings.
“Can you stop it? I am a businessman and I need to run my business for a long time,” restaurant supervisor Ny Sin told Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.
Rong Chhun later alleged that restaurant staff had told him that Daun Penh district authorities had ordered the establishment to block the screening, though Ny Sin denied this, saying the decision was the result of “restaurant policy”.
Daun Penh deputy governor Sok Penhvuth also denied that city officials had made such an order and said he had no knowledge of the incident.
Union leaders attempted on several occasions last year to show the film but have been stopped by officials who have called the documentary an “illegal import”.
During a Labour Day rally last year, unionists attempted to show the film outside Chamkarmon district’s Wat Lanka, near where Chea Vichea was killed, only to have their projector screen pulled down by local police.
Rong Chhun said today that the alleged pressure on the restaurant provided further evidence of government involvement in the murder.
“It is true that a senior government official is behind the killing of Chea Vichea, and the authorities themselves have to investigate,” he said.
The screening coincided with International Women’s Day, during which a coalition of unions and NGOs had planned to hold a rally in central Phnom Penh.
In a letter dated last week, however, Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema denied their request to hold the rally. No explanation was provided in the letter.
Pich Srey, a 28-year-old worker at a garment factory in Phnom Penh, said she did not understand why the screening had been prevented.
“The authorities should have allowed the film in order to let us learn about society,” she said.
“Seeing [the film] and being aware are my rights.”