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Murder case reopened

Murder case reopened

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered a reinvestigation into the 2007 shooting death of union leader Hy Vuthy, one of several high-profile slayings in recent years that have been blamed for discouraging robust activism on the part of unionists nationwide.

Hy Vuthy, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia at the Suntex garment factory in Dangkor district, was shot at 5:15am on February 24, 2007, while returning home from a shift, according to a summary of the case prepared by rights group Licadho.

The crime was reported to have been carried out by two men on a motorbike less than a kilometre from the factory.

After the killing, Phnom Penh Municipal police chief Touch Naruth said officers had identified two suspects, but that no arrests were made.

He later backed away from that claim, and Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered the case thrown out in August 2008. The Appeal Court dismissed the case in July of last year.

After hearing a brief statement from Licadho-provided lawyer Ham Sunrith yesterday, Supreme Court judges ordered the case be sent back to the Municipal Court and called on police to aid in a new investigation. “We urge the police to reinvestigate this case,” Presiding Judge Khim Pon said.

Union leaders and rights workers yesterday praised the court’s decision, but expressed doubt that police and the judiciary would be able to resolve the case satisfactorily.

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony said he did not believe the perpetrators would ever be brought to justice.

“They just push the case back and forth to one another,” he said of the courts, “like they are kicking a football.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that he was “not so clear” about the case, before referring questions to Touch Naruth, who could not be reached. Municipal Court President Chiv Keng also could not be reached yesterday.

A September report from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said no investigation into Hy Vuthy’s case had been in motion as of June and contended that witnesses and others close to the case – including Hy Vuthy’s wife, Va Sopheak – had “received threats in order to silence them”.

The report highlighted the case as one of three that had left the national labour movement “shaken”. The other two cases were the January 2004 shooting death of Free Trade Union president Chea Vichea, which remains unsolved, and the May 2004 slaying of Ros Sovannareth.

Though Chan Sopheak was sentenced to 15 years in connection with the latter killing, the September Ob-servatory report said he was “believed by national and international organisations to be innocent”.

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