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Union to skip annual march

120110_05
People march in Phnom Penh to mark the sixth anniversary of union leader Chea Vichea’s assassination, on January 22, 2010. Sovan Philong

On the anniversary of union leader Chea Vichea’s death each year, members of Cambodia’s Free Trade Union defy government orders and march to the site of his assassination in 2004 to lay wreaths in his honour.

The same orders have come this year, but for the first time, the union has listened and agreed not to march.

The reason, FTU president Chea Mony said, has nothing to do with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s decision last week to approve the building of a statue to the fallen union leader, but is because the January 22 anniversary coincides with senate elections campaigning.

“The program to commemorate Chea Vichea’s memory is intact, but there is no march to newsstands near Lanka pagoda, where the killers shot him dead. Instead, we will take the wreaths in motorbikes and cars,” Chea Mony, Chea Vichea’s younger brother, said.

It is the first time Chea Mony has agreed not to march on the anniversary of his brother’s death, but he denied his obedience related to the statue.  

“I don’t give in to anybody. I don’t hold the procession because it is a [campaigning] day for the senate election. I follow the law, and the city hall also complies with the law.”

More than 100 people had been expected to march through the streets to the site where Chea Vichea was assassinated in 2004 while reading a newspaper near Wat Lanka.

The decision to cancel the wreath procession was made on Friday after city hall held two meetings attended by union representatives.

Koet Chhe, deputy director of Phnom Penh municipal administration, decided not to allow the procession because the city did not want campaigning for the senate election for the third mandate to be interrupted, Chea Mony said.

The union representatives had also agreed to refrain from using banners, pushing political messages and travelling past Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house, he said.

Two men were charged, convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for Chea Vichea’s murder, but are widely believed to be innocent.

Chea Vichea’s wife, Chea Kimny, and their two children sent a letter from Finland, which the Post obtained yesterday, asking the government to find Chea Vichea’s killers. “My two children and I would like to request the government seek justice for our beloved father and husband,” Chea  Kimny wrote.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said the authorities’ inability to find the real killers meant people were losing confidence in the government.

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