sa’ang district, Kandal province – Hundreds of workers and opposition lawmakers gathered in Prek Koy commune on Saturday afternoon to mark the first anniversary of outspoken union leader Chea Vichea’s Jan 22 shooting death.
Led by Chea Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony, who has since replaced him as president of the Free Trade Union, the group marched from the home of a relative in Prek Run village to a nearby stupa, newly erected in his honor.
Chea Mony carried his brother’s ashes to the stupa, where they will remain. The march proceeded without any intervention from police or local authorities.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, a close friend of Chea Vichea, was present at the ceremony, along with opposition Cabinet member Mu Sochua and Khmer Front Party President Soth Dina.
“One year has passed. It was like yesterday,” Sam Rainsy said. “We lost a good friend.”
Notably absent were Funcinpec leaders and officials who last year mourned Chea Vichea’s death. Then allied with the Sam Rainsy Party during the post-July 2003 election deadlock, Funcinpec officials had urged authorities to find those responsible for the shooting. Funcinpec’s Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh, among other observers and politicians, had voiced suspicions that the attack was politically motivated.
“You kill one Chea Vichea, but there will be hundreds of Chea Vicheas,” Prince Sirivudh said at the time.
Since his death, police have arrested two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, for Chea Vichea’s murder, though rights groups and the opposition have maintained that they are not the true killers. Police have yet to reveal who may have hired Chea Vichea’s killers.
On Saturday morning, a group of 15 workers, including Chea Mony and Chea Vichea’s friend Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, marched from the FTU’s Phnom Penh office to the nearby newsstand where the union leader was gunned down.
Mourners held a moment of silence, then lit candles and incense.
“Within one year, the government has failed to arrest the true killers and the people who were behind the killing,” Rong Chhun said.
He added that the FTU will ask King Norodom Sihamoni to grant Chea Vichea the title of national hero.