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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unionist's murder another whodunnit

Unionist's murder another whodunnit

unionist.jpg
unionist.jpg

Speculation is rife about the motive behind the daylight shooting of garment

factory trade union leader Ros Sovannareth, the second such killing this

year.

Ros Sovannareth's widow, Roeun Yarann, and brother, Sok San, weep over his body at Kossamak hospital where he died after being shot.

His widow says it stems from an argument with another union

official, at which her husband's life was apparently threatened.

Another

says the argument had been resolved months ago.

A third source says it

was revenge arising from a love affair.

His own union is not sure why he

might have been killed, but an international union leader sees it is "an overt

threat to the trade union movement".

The police are not speculating. They

say they are still collecting evidence and witnesses disagree about exactly what

happened.

Sovannareth, 42, president of the workers' union at Trinunggal

Komara garment factory, was shot on the afternoon of May 7 on Kampuchea Krom

Boulevard in Tek Laok 1 commune, Tuol Kork, while driving a motorbike home to

Prek Leap in Russey Keo. He was struck four times by bullets fired by two

unidentified assailants, who escaped.

His widow, Roeun Yarann, 30, has

fears about her security and is seeking support from NGOs. "I have nothing after

my husband was killed. My daughter and I are very afraid," said Yarann. "I

didn't know what to say when I saw his body covered in blood. I cannot believe

he has been shot. He never has arguments, not even with our

neighbors."

On May 11, Yarann filed a request to Phnom Penh municipal

court, asking the police to find the killers, and claiming $30,000

compensation.

Her statement said that on November 29 at 9am a person

named Khvann Chanmony, representing another union in the same factory, walked

away angrily from a meeting, threatening Sovannareth: "Be careful, you may

disappear."

On the same day Sovannareth and six others wrote to the

factory owner complaining about the threatening statement.

Sam Srey Mom,

acting president of the Free Trade Union, said: "We cannot say whether his

killing is a revenge or not. We cannot accuse somebody because we are

investigating the case."

Srey Mom said that in late November 2003

Sovannareth had an argument in the factory with Khvann Chanmony, an official

from the pro-government Cambodian Union Federation (CUF) while choosing worker

representatives for the factory, but said things calmed down after the problems

were resolved.

Chuon Momthol, president of the CUF and president of the

Cambodian Confederation of Trade Unions, said: "His killing is a personal

revenge and related to love affairs. They [the widow and family} have the right

to file a complaint to my union, but if the court finds that nothing involves my

union I will file a complaint for defamation and imprisonment."

Momthol

said the conflict between Sovannareth and Chanmony was not a big problem. It was

solved and they became friends before FTU president Chea Vichea was shot on

January 22.

Phnom Penh Penal Police chief Reach Sokhon told the Post on

May 17 that the police were collecting information from the workers at the

factory and witnesses at the shooting.

"The investigation does not have

the positive result yet because the answers of eyewitnesses are not similar. Now

they do not want to talk to police because they are afraid of their security,"

said Reach Sokhon. "It takes time to investigate, but we want it to finish soon.

The police are working hard on this case".

On May 10, in a letter to

Minister of Social affairs Ith Sam Heng, the secretary-general of the

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Asia and Pacific Regional

Organization, Noriyuki Suzuki, said the killing was another threatening message

to other trade union leaders to stop their trade union activities.

"These

two murders are an overt threat to the trade union movement" he said.

The

Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and the Son Sann Foundation also

condemned the murder and appealed to the government to investigate and bring the

perpetrators to justice.

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