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Union leader says charges baseless

One of six union leaders charged and summonsed for questioning over a strike that ended in government forces shooting dead at least five people in January has sent a message to authorities to hurry up and get his hearing over with.

“I want to tell them that I am not afraid of this,” Free Trade Union president Chea Mony said. “It’s politically motivated. This is very cheap behaviour.”

Phnom Penh municipal judge Chea Sokheang yesterday confirmed that he was summonsing the leaders of six unions over intentional violence and other charges stemming from a nationwide garment strike over the minimum wage in late December and January.

“I already summonsed them for questioning” for intentional violence with aggravating circumstances, Sokheang said. While the judge couldn’t recall whom he had ordered to appear in court, a clerk said the list included Mony, Ath Thorn, Rong Chhun, Pav Sina and Yang Sophorn.

On Tuesday, the Post obtained the summons sent to Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.

The summonses come months after the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) filed a court complaint on behalf of 170 factories.

Mony said he believed the Ministry of Labour and GMAC were pushing to remove the Kingdom’s independent union presidents from power.

Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), has not yet received a court summons for questioning, said May Sopheaktra, CATU’s secretary-general.

“You could say that this summons is a threat, but [union leaders’] actions are not theirs alone; they work for their members,” Sopheaktra said. “She did not do anything wrong, she is not afraid of answering to the court.”

Sophorn could not be reached.

Neither GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo nor the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment.

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