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New probe in Hy Vuthy case

New probe in Hy Vuthy case

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered a reinvestigation of the 2007 murder of union activist Hy Vuthy, a case that has followed the dubious pattern seen in previous killings of labour leaders.

Hy Vuthy, president of the Free Trade Union at the Suntex garment factory in Dangkor district, was shot at 5:15am on February 24, 2007, while returning home from a shift. He was the third FTU representative to have been killed in three years, after factory representative Ros Sovannareth and FTU head Chea Vichea were gunned down in 2004.

Earlier this year, the court charged two suspects in the case: Chan Sophorn and Phal Vannak, both 32 and both former colleagues of Hy Vuthy who remain at large. The men were tried in absentia last month, but the cursory hearing lacked sufficient evidence on which to convict them, presiding judge Ke Sakhorn said yesterday.

“The reason why the court has ordered the reinvestigation of Hy Vuthy’s case is because there were not enough evidence and reports at the trial,” he said. “It lacked witnesses, evidence, an autopsy, a death certificate and other related reports.”

Police have been ordered to arrest the suspects ahead of the next hearing in the case, Ke Sakhorn added.

Neang Hay, a court-appointed lawyer for the suspects, said there was no evidence linking his clients to the crimes, and called for the court to drop the charges. “There were no witnesses or evidence demonstrating that my clients had been involved,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ordered the provisional release of Thach Saveth, who had been convicted of Ros Savannareth’s murder in 2005 despite his claims that he was traveling in
Northwestern Cambodia at the time. That case has in turn drawn comparisons to that of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, two men who were convicted under dubious circumstances for the murder of Chea Vichea before being released pending a new investigation in 2009, having served nearly five years in prison.

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