More than 200 local and international unions, rights groups and a major sportswear brand on Monday urged Cambodian authorities to conduct a professional and impartial investigation into the February killing of Free Trade Union official Hy Vuthy.
The 242 organizations, including sports apparel giant Adidas Group, the International Labor Organization and Human Rights Watch, issued a joint statement criticizing the growing number of violent attacks against union leaders.
“This pattern of violence and the climate of fear it creates for trade union leaders and workers must be stopped,” the organizations said ahead of International Labor Day, which falls today. The statement included pictures of Hy Vuthy as well as former FTU president Chea Vichea, who was shot dead in January 2004, and FTU official Ros Sovannareth, gunned down several months later.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said an investigation into Hy Vuthy’s killing is already underway and warrants have been issued for two suspects. He declined to name the suspects and referred further questions to the municipal police.
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth also declined to name the two suspects. “We have used all means to find the suspects, but they are hiding,” he said. “If the NGOs have the ability, they can help us to arrest the [suspects].”
The Cambodian Confederation of Unions also issued a statement Monday asking the government to find the “real” killers of Hy Vuthy, Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the courts have already convicted the killers of both Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said he was not worried that repeated public statements about violence against union leaders would negatively affect the garment industry.
“We are more concerned about the safety of the workers,” Ken Loo said. People should not necessarily conclude that violence involving unionists is linked to their union activities, he added.
“Every day you read in the local papers that there are so many tragic acts of violence and so on. It is so convenient to say it’s just an act of violence targeting unionists,” he said.