Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM: Three protest union leaders ‘innocent’



PM: Three protest union leaders ‘innocent’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun speaks at a press conference on September 18. Hong Menea

PM: Three protest union leaders ‘innocent’

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday that he believes three of the six union leaders convicted for their role in violent street demonstrations were innocent.

Seemingly contradicting the judgement handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, his comments were made as he addressed 20,000 garment factory workers in Kampong Speu province’s Romduol village on Wednesday.

He said the people involved with “attempting to topple the government” in violent demonstrations at Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh must be punished, but that he believed three of the six convicted union leaders were not involved in the demonstrations.

Hun Sen named the three as the presidents of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, Ath Thorn; the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, Pav Sina; and the former president of the Free Trade Union, Chea Mony.

Their convictions came in relation to events in late 2013 and early 2014, in which garment factory workers protested at Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh demanding an increase to the minimum wage.

The protests were backed by the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) which joined the protests and also called for a recount of votes from the 2013 national election. The demonstrations, which lasted for several weeks, ended in violence.

On Tuesday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed six union leaders – Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun and Mam Nhim – two and a half year prison sentences each, along with a 35 million riel ($8,700) compensation order to be paid to two victims of the protests.

But on Wednesday the prime minister said there was sufficient evidence proving the innocence of three of the six convicted union leaders. He did not comment on the convictions of the remaining three.

He cited the chairman of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee Keo Remy and journalist Soy Sopheap as key witnesses who are able to exonerate Chea Mony, Pav Sina and Ath Thorn.

“Keo Remy can be a witness for Chea Mony, because at the time I received a report that forces would intervene [in the Veng Sreng protests], I called Keo Remy to tell him to instruct Chea Mony not to get involved."

“For Ath Thorn, I sent a message via WhatsApp [a mobile messaging app]. For Pav Sina, I told Soy Sopheap to not let him get involved. Therefore, I believe these three people have not been involved since the beginning,” the prime minister said.

However, Hun Sen urged the three men to “forward their complaints to the Appeals Court”. He also advised the men to gather more evidence to prove their innocence.

Pav Sina corroborated the prime minister’s statement, saying he was not involved in the protests and was occupied in a series of meetings while they were happening.

He said he was unable to accept the decision of Phnom Penh Municipal Court and planned to follow the prime minister’s advice and forward the case to the Appeals Court.

“The statement of Samdech [Hun Sen] is a sign of hope for us. It encourages us to continue our work because I have not committed the crime I was charged with. I will file a complaint to the Appeals Court and hope to have my conviction overturned,” he said.

Ath Thorn said he believed the prime minister’s comments gave them a strong chance of successfully overturning their convictions through the Appeals Court, a process he had already
begun.

“I have prepared the lawyer and documents for forwarding the case to the Appeals Court, in order to oppose the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. I ask the Appeals Court to consider the facts because the allegations of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court are unacceptable for me,” he said.

Chea Mony’s wife also refuted the Phnom Penh Municipal Court conviction, saying her husband did not leave their house after Soy Sopheap called to tell him not to get involved in the demonstrations.

“I will prepare the complaint for filing to the Appeals Court,” she said following Hun Sen’s recommendation.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Ly Sophana did not wish to comment on the case when contacted by The Post on Wednesday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Lost in translation: ‘Starvation’ in capital’s designated red zones

    “DACH bay” is a Khmer slang meaning a “loss of income”, that could also be literally translated to «deprived of rice”, which alludes to starvation. However, civil society organisation (CSO) officials have independently confirmed the government’s prior assertions that there are no cases of