Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future

Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future

Pang Vunny gestures towards his eyes as he explains his deteriorating eyesight
Pang Vunny gestures towards his eyes as he explains his deteriorating eyesight, near his residence on Veng Sreng Boulevard. Pha Lina

Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future

When Pang Vunny walks around his rented room just off of Veng Sreng Boulevard, he waves his hand from side to side in front of him, like a man feeling his way in the dark.

Ever since he was arrested and badly beaten on January 2 – as one of 23 detained over two days of unruly wage protests during which at least four demonstrators were shot dead – Vunny’s eyesight has been in decline.

Though he takes medicine, provided by rights group Licadho, he is unsure whether it can cure the ailment, or whether the blurry shapes he is still able to make out will soon disappear.

“I am worried I will go stone blind if they are not cured,” he said.

Vunny and the 22 others were freed from prison last Friday – albeit with convictions and suspended sentences – but freedom doesn’t lessen the worry over his livelihood and his siblings, whom he supports. His hazy vision means he can’t work in the garment factory.

“I am innocent, [but] they beat me like that and put me in jail, and sentenced me to three years’ imprisonment,” he said. “How about the soldiers who beat me? Why don’t they put them in jail, too?”

His voice breaking, Vunny recalled how he had been sitting in his room reading a Cambodian-to-English dictionary when soldiers and military police rushed in, beat him and dragged him out over the protests of his siblings.

As he was hauled down the street and had his hands tied behind his back, the beating continued, he said. Then, he passed out.

“Then they threw water on me. When I woke up, they used heavy shoes to kick me around the eyebrows,” he said.

Vunny now occasionally coughs up black blood, he said, and when he looks down, at a plate of food, for example, he immediately get a headache.

Vunny will travel to Bangkok for treatment soon, also courtesy of Licadho, but only after others with more pressing ailments. Meanwhile, he says he is considering appealing his conviction and countersuing the authorities.

National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said yesterday that it was within Vunny’s rights to sue, and that police “will comply with the court order if they do investigate”.

MOST VIEWED

  • US to ramp up sanctions after ‘flawed’ national polls

    At a press conference on Wednesday, the US State Department announced that it would expand visa sanctions on the Cambodian officials and individuals it deems responsible for “undermining democracy” in Cambodia. At the briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the department regarded the July 29 elections

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by