Unionist, Friend Charged Over Face Slap

A Free Trade Union member and his friend were charged Thursday with committing intentional violence after they had a physical altercation with the administrator of a factory in Kompong Chhnang province on Tuesday, a lawyer said.

Unionist Phon Vanna and his neighbor, Chhem Chhuon, are accused of slapping the face of Thy Kunthea, an administrator at Mr. Vanna’s wife’s factory, and breaking the side-view mirror of her car during a confrontation that occurred after Ms. Kunthea fired Mr. Vanna’s wife for attempting to start a branch of the union at the Horizon Outdoor factory in Samakki Meanchey district.

Ms. Kunthea used her mobile phone to call local military police and complain that the two men were trying to kill her. They were later arrested and held overnight for questioning.

Now they have been sent to the provincial prison pending trial, according to their lawyer, Kao Ty.

“The court decided to provisionally detain them over intentional violence according to Article 218 of the criminal code,” Mr. Ty said, adding that he believed there was not enough evidence to charge his clients.

Chea Mony, the head of the Free Trade Union, who has been closely following the case, said the men unequivocally deny having slapped Ms. Kunthea or trying to kill her, and suggested authorities were deliberately targeting Mr. Vanna because he is a unionist.

Mr. Mony said the investigating judge had not gone to the scene of the alleged slap before laying charges against the two men, and questioned why Ms. Kunthea’s car was not impounded for evidence.

“If the mirror of the car was broken, why did military police not keep that car in their office? She is driving it as normal,” he said.

“The investigating judge has a right to investigate the story, but he did not go down to investigate at the location of the incident and just decided to provisionally detain them,” he added. “It is not reasonable.”

The judge who laid the charges, Nhoung Chanthy, could not be reached for comment. Ms. Kunthea could not be reached.

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