Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed to the construction of a memorial for slain union leader Chea Vichea after six years of petitioning by unionists and supporters.
Chea Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony, who has now assumed his elder sibling’s mantel as president of Cambodia’s Free Trade Union, said the FTU sent an annual letter on the anniversary of Chea Vichea’s assassination to the King requesting a statue be built, but their plea had been ignored every time
“This is the first time we have petitioned Prime Minister Hun Sen – on the same day we sent the request, we received the permission,” Chea Mony said.
“We are all very surprised.”
Chea Vichea, the powerful and dearly loved leader of the Free Trade Union, was assassinated on January 22, 2004, in Phnom Penh while reading a newspaper at a news kiosk near Wat Lanka.
The two men later charged, convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for perpetrating the murder are widely believed to be innocent.
“Building the statue is also a good signal to the families of those wrongly accused and to the real killers that we know that the right people are not in jail,” Chea Mony told the Post. “It is important for public awareness.”
Hun Sen’s approval of the monument came with the caveat that the FTU would be responsible for funding and construction and that they must first have discussions with Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema.
“We are waiting for official documents and we would meet with Mr Chea Mony next week,” Kep Chuktema told the Post. “It is happy news, we would talk to prepare a spot for [him] as Samdech Prime Minister wrote.”
Kep Chuktema added that if Chea Mony had petitioned Hun Sen earlier instead of petitioning media, his request would have been granted a long time ago.
Chea Mony said his ideal statue of his brother would be a full body “statesman style” monument.
“We want to show the public who he was and what he did – he made the first trade union in the history of Cambodia, and he sacrificed his life to protect and support the poor,” Chea Mony said, adding that previous petitions to the King included a request that Chea Vichea be given the title of “Hero”.
“Young people will be able to look upon the statue and know that if you do something important here, you will be remembered.”
The Cambodian Government has previously banned screenings of the film Who Killed Chea Vichea, which examines the controversy surrounding Chea Vichea’s assassination.