Another Free Trade Union Leader Shot Dead

When the bullet hit union leader Ros Sovannareth, his motorbike rolled to the curb and he toppled to the ground, several witnesses said Sunday.

Two men on a motorbike pulled up beside him and shot twice more before riding off Friday afternoon, witnesses said.

No one would describe what happened Friday. When asked, a man standing across the street from the crime scene silently drew a finger across his throat.

“We know something, but we say nothing,” said a woman who operates a telephone booth on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard.

This year’s second killing of a Free Trade Union lead­er, and the latest in a series of execution-style shootings that has spanned more than a year, spark­ed fear and accusations over the weekend.

The Cambodian Watchdog Council charged that “the inability of the government to arrest the real killers has encouraged the contract assassinations to in­crease during the political standoff.”

Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers issued a separate statement Satur­day, insisting that donor countries reconsider their relationships with the “illegitimate caretaker government” because of the killing. The parliamentarians warned that authorities will dismiss the killing of Ros Sovannareth as non-political, without sufficient evidence.

The head of the pro-CPP Cam­bodian Union Federation said Sunday that the killer was a jealous husband or boyfriend.

“The killing happened because of a love affair. He was very charming. He had a lot of girlfriends,” Chuon Momthol said.

He also denied allegations by FTU members, who had worked at the Trinunggal Komara garment factory with Ros Sovan­nareth, that the CUF could be behind the killing.

“We love each other,” Chuon Mom­thol said of the two unions, before adding that he would sue the FTU for defamation.

But a copy of a complaint filed last November with factory management and Russei Keo district police against Chuon Mom­thol indicates hostility between the  two groups.

Ros Sovannareth and six other FTU representatives signed a statement saying that on Nov 29, 2003, CUF organizer Khvan Chan­ly­­mony warned them, “Don’t talk about or mistreat my representative. Otherwise, you will disappear.” The complaint said it was alerting authorities that if its signatories were harmed, Khvan Chan­lymony would be responsible.

Responding to the complaint on Sunday, Khvan Chanlymony said: “At that time, I did not have any argument with the victim. I am very poor, I am from the countryside and I am only a worker. I don’t have any power to do that.” He too insisted that the CUF and FTU were on good terms.

FTU board member Chea Mony, brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea, disagreed. “The FTU tries to help the worker. The CUF tries to help the factory. The natures of the two unions prevent them from getting along,” he said Sunday. “The techniques of the killing are just like those used for Chea Vichea. Maybe it’s the same killer,” he added.

Deputy Municipal Police Chief Muong Khim declined to say Sunday whether police had leads or suspects.

The Alliance of Democrats on Saturday called the killing “severe political pressure.”

The witnesses would not say if the killers wore helmets. Trees or distance obscured the views, they said.




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