All six union leaders convicted for their roles in the 2013 Veng Sreng Boulevard protests plan to bring their case to the Appeal Court, spurred on by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s assertion that three of the six men were not involved in the violent protests.
On December 11, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the six union leaders – Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun and Mam Nhim – to a suspended two and a half year prison sentence for “intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances”, and ordered the men to pay 35 million riel in compensation to the two plaintiffs.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina on Monday said he filed an appeal against the decision of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which will be submitted on Tuesday, because he cannot accept the court’s initial decision.
“I have hope – it [the prime minister’s comments] encouraged us to continue our work, because I did not commit what the court accused me of. The prime minister’s comments were also a good sign that he believes our appeal to the Appeal Court will be a success,” said Pav Sina.
Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union president Ath Thorn could not be reached for comment on Monday, but he said on December 12 that the prime minister’s comment would be a “light to pave the way for them” to win at the Appeal Court.
“I have already prepared a lawyer and documents to file an appeal to the Appeal Court against the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict, and I would like to ask the Appeal Court to carefully consider the facts, because this accusation is unacceptable,” said Thorn.
Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions president Yang Sophorn could not be reached for comment on Monday, nor could former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia Chea Mony, who was reportedly on a trip abroad.
‘I am still not happy’
Chea Mony’s wife said on December 12 that she thought the accusations against her husband were unjust. She said her husband did not leave the house that day and that political mediator Soy Sopheap called to warn him not to be involved in the Veng Sreng Boulevard protests.
“I am still not happy . . . I’m waiting to see how the situation unfolds and I will also prepare to file an appeal to the Appeal Court following the PM’s recommendations,” she said.
During a speech to 20,000 workers in Kampong Speu province’s Samrong Tong district on December 12, the prime minister claimed that three of the six convicted union leaders – Ath Thorn, Pav Sina and Chea Mony – were not involved in the protest. He did not confirm or deny the three other union leaders’ involvement.
“There are three people who were not involved [Ath Thorn, Pav Sina and Chea Mony] – I have evidence for the three. But for the other three, I do not dare to comment,” he told the crowd.
Late in 2013, garment factory workers protested on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard to demand an increase to the minimum wage to $160 a month, after the government previously only raised the minimum wage from $80 to $95.
The demand was backed by then Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders, who were also protesting to demand a vote re-count for the 2013 national election.
The weeks of protests ended in violence, leaving four protesters dead and dozens of others – including police – wounded.