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Anger grows as ‘23’ trial begins

District security personnel outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday carry an activist away from a demonstration in support of the 23 people detained during January’s garment strikes
District security personnel outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday carry an activist away from a demonstration in support of the 23 people detained during January’s garment strikes. Vireak Mai

Anger grows as ‘23’ trial begins

Family members of some of the 23 men sent to trial on Friday over their alleged role in January garment protests that turned violent said yesterday that the court was not giving their loved ones the chance to defend themselves and was harming their well-being further by delaying their trial.

The trial for the group of workers, unionists and activists was adjourned until May 6 after Phnom Penh municipal judge Keo Mony said the court needed more time to study
the evidence.

“These people [are accused of] having incited people to protest against garment factories and causing serious turmoil in our society,” he said.

Prak Sovannary, wife of Vorn Pov, the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association president who is one of those on trial, said her husband was not questioned.

“My husband and others are being detained at Prey Sar prison while they wait for bail hearings at the Supreme Court [on May 2],” she said. “But the [trial] has been delayed so long. Why doesn’t the judge resume [today]?”

“My husband has been detained for nearly four months already and was brought to court only to watch. He had no chance to be questioned.”

Youm Sokun, 55, father of accused NGO worker Sokun Sambath Piseth, said only four of the accused had been questioned, along with witnesses, including from the military.

“My son was beaten, injuring his hand. He was beaten by the military, but during the hearing, a military officer said they did not use any metal sticks to [hit] protesters.”

All suspects were arrested on January 2 and 3 in Phnom Penh during a strike that ended in government forces shooting dead at least four people.

Charges include aggravated intentional violence and aggravated intentional property destruction, which carry a maximum prison sentence of five years. The court has reduced charges against at least three, including Pov, whose charges carry a maximum of two years’ prison.

Two men were separately on trial for their alleged participation in a November riot involving striking factory workers from SL Garment.

REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA, BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA AND SEAN TEEHAN

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