Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Union leader six found guilty over violent protests in 2013



Union leader six found guilty over violent protests in 2013

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun speaks at a press conference on September 18. Hong Menea

Union leader six found guilty over violent protests in 2013

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday handed six union leaders suspended sentences and ordered them to pay compensation to their victims for their role in protests that occurred along Veng Sreng Boulevard in 2013.

“Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentences Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun and Mam Nhim to two years and six months [each], and orders all the accused to pay five million riel (around $1,250) to victim Chea Sophany, and 30 million riel to victim Tim Vuthy,” Judge Im Vannak said at the hearing.

Judge Vannak said the four original charges against the six union leaders – intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances; intentionally causing damage with aggravating circumstances; threats to destroy followed by an order; blocking public traffic – were all changed to charges of instigating the acts.

In late 2013, factory workers protested along Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $160 per month, after the government had initially raised it to $95 from $80.

The protests were supported by the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was also demanding a vote recount for the 2013 national election. The weeks-long protest ended in violence.

Veal Vong commune deputy police chief Tim Vuthy who was one of those injured in the protest filed a complaint to the court, along with Ken Loo of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

Vuthy said he agreed with the decision and wouldn’t appeal.

None of the six accused union leaders was present in court on Tuesday, but two, speaking by phone, claimed the decision was unjust.

Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions president Yang Sophorn said: “I see it is an unjust decision because I did not destroy the property of a company or other people. I was not there.

“Why have I been sued and required to pay compensation with a two and half year prison term? Yes, the court suspended the term, but I was still found guilty."

“With this decision, we can see that the government is not willing to help us with honesty or to help unions exercise their work smoothly. It’s a burden for us.”

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun said he would talk to his lawyer to appeal against the court’s decision.

“It is unjust. All of us did not commit the crimes that we have been charged with. The court did not give us justice, but instead severely sentenced us. We don’t earn a salary . . . we are simply [union] volunteers."

“I will talk to my lawyer and let him file my appeal. We cannot accept this unjust decision. I think that the other unions may have the same idea,” Chhun said.

He said that although he was found guilty, he would continue his work to represent and protect the interests of union members and that he would hold firm in his “stance and willingness to work for the workers”.

Besides the Veng Sreng Boulevard protest case, judge Vannak also handed out verdicts for three other related incidents that occurred at different factories across Phnom Penh. Many other union leaders were found guilty but all received suspended sentences.

Prime Minister Hun Sen recently urged the relevant ministries to find a way to drop charges against union leaders or to quickly try their cases in order for them to resume their jobs.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.