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Despite illness, no bail for labour activist

A man is beaten and dragged off by authorities outside the Yakjin clothing factory during a garment worker strike
A man is beaten and dragged off by authorities outside the Yakjin clothing factory during a garment worker strike in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district earlier this month. POST STAFF

Despite illness, no bail for labour activist

Labour activist Vorn Pov, who is facing serious health issues while being held in pre-trial detention in Kampong Cham’s Correctional Centre 3 prison, has been denied bail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

His NGO-provided lawyer, San Sokunthear, immediately filed an appeal against the bail denial yesterday, saying that her client’s health is deteriorating.

“He was already sick, but since he was beaten, his illness has become more serious.”

Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), was arrested along with 22 factory workers and activists during a two-day police crackdown on protesting garment workers earlier this month.

The other 22 detainees will apply for bail today, according to lawyers.

The court denied Pov’s bail on the grounds that the court was still investigating and could not release him while it continued its procedures, Sokunthear said.

Prak Sovanary, Pov’s wife, who visited her husband at the prison yesterday, confirmed his condition was worsening.

“My husband told me he is in so much pain at night. He cannot sleep, and he may be in so much pain because he was kicked [by soldiers],” she said.

Along with inflicting head wounds, soldiers hit Pov in the kidneys when beating him during and after his arrest, according to Sovanary. The activist underwent kidney surgery last year.

“If anything happens to my doting husband, I will file a complaint against the government to hold them responsible, because they have not released my husband on bail for his health. Where will my husband run to? He has not done anything wrong. I would like to ask the prison guards to allow NGO doctors to check his health and other [detainees]. [Khmer Rouge] leaders killed a lot of people, but when they were arrested [even they] got medical care,” she said.

Vorn Pov was one of 10 arrested by RCAF’s elite 911 paratrooper brigade on January 2 during protests outside the Yakjin garment factory in Por Sen Chey district. Thirteen others were arrested and at least four shot dead by security forces the following day after clashes erupted in and around Canadia Industrial Park.

All have been charged with intentional aggravated violence and intentional aggravated property destruction. The 23 suspects remain detained in the remote CC3 prison near the Vietnamese border.

Chear Sovana, director of CC3, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Amnesty International representative Rupert Abbott said yesterday that his organisation remained concerned that Pov had even been arrested.

“This man is a peaceful activist, so it seems as though he shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place, let alone kept in detention,” he said.

Naly Pilorge, director at rights group Licadho, called the bail denial “shocking” given Pov’s documented health condition and numerous guarantees given to the court that he would appear for further questioning if requested.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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