Labour rights advocate and executive director of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (Central) Moeun Tola was questioned by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday over embezzlement allegations relating to the funeral funds of slain political analyst Kem Ley.
Tola, Pa Nguon Teang, the founder and executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), and Buth Buntenh, the founder of the Independent Monks Network, are accused of wrongdoing by Pich Sros, chief of the Cambodian Youth Party.
Khun Tharo, a program coordinator at Central, an NGO, said Tola, who was charged by the prosecutor over the allegations, was questioned for over an hour by an investigating judge. He is currently waiting to hear if the judge agrees with the prosecutor to proceed to trial.
“If the investigating judge decides to drop the charges, he will issue a formal statement. But the judge also needs the prosecutor’s consent for this, and if the latter agrees, the case will not proceed,” Tharo said.
Tola could not be reached for comment on Sunday, while Ham Sunrith, his defence lawyer, declined to comment.
William Conklin, country director at labour advocacy NGO Solidarity Center, said he hopes the court will decide to drop the charges against Tola.
“I think it will be a good thing if the court drops the charges and solves this case quickly. There are many people watching this case. But the court is just following procedure. Even so, we hope to have a solution soon,” he said.
Bou Rachana, Ley’s widow, has previously told The Post that she did not recognise or agree with the complaint. She said Sros is not a family member and would therefore not know anything about the funeral fund.
“The allegation is unreasonable. Sros has done this to discredit Buntenh, Nguon Teang and Tola,” Rachana said.
This year, some companies and prominent buyers’ associations, including the VF Corporation in the United States, sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for a review of the case and others that allegedly contravene human rights in the country.
Recently, the Ministry of Labour also sent a letter to the court requesting that the charges against Tola be dropped.