Chea Kimny hoped that her second daughter could be born far away from whatever plotted violence killed her partner, union leader Chea Vichea.
Hounded by fear, she has been urgently seeking asylum in the US and passage out of Cambodia, after Chea Vichea’s slaying in Phnom Penh last month.
For now, however, Chea Kimny is almost eight months pregnant with Chea Vichea’s child and in limbo, confined by fear to her apartment as the wheels of international bureaucracy begin to haltingly turn.
“I want to leave soon, as soon as possible,” she said Tuesday.
Chea Vichea was shot dead on the morning of Jan 22 as he read a newspaper near Independence Monument. For years he was an outspoken advocate of workers’ rights as a Sam Rainsy Party activist and president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Since the hit-style killing,
34-year-old Chea Kimny has applied for political asylum at the UN High Commissioner of Refugees office and the US Embassy in Bangkok, she said.
US officials in Phnom Penh have offered advice in getting out of the country, she said, but so far she has not received a phone call to interview in Bangkok—a necessary step before she can be considered for asylum.
“I hope after I have the baby I can learn some English. I will study,” said Chea Kimny, who now speaks no English. She is hoping that her skill as a tailor will lead to work in Washington, where some of her relatives live.
“If I can get some job in the United States and earn some money, I will send it back here to the FTU,” she said, adding that she had received promises of support from Sam Rainsy Party members overseas.
US Embassy spokesman David Gainer said he could not comment on Chea Kimny’s case.
But friends are watching and waiting to see if the US will help her find a new start.
“If the US government can provide some help, it’s an encouragement for the democrats who have sacrificed their life for Cambodia,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association and a close friend of Chea Vichea.
“We will know that the US is behind us,” he said.
Since the union leader’s death, a frightened Chea Kimny has abandoned the house they shared and moved into a small apartment above a friend’s office. She leaves only to go to the doctor for an occasional check-up on her pregnancy, and when workers at the human rights group Licadho accompany her.
The arrest of two men accused of killing Chea Vichea have afforded no comfort, she said.
“I’m still worried about my safety. They are not the real killers,” she said, echoing claims by other opposition members.
Her hands folded across her lap, she said her unborn baby and 2-year-old daughter deserve to live under a government better than the one headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which Chea Vichea ardently criticized.
In Cambodia’s current state, it would be nearly impossible to ever feel safe here, she said.
“If Prime Minister Hun Sen steps down, I might come back. If not, I will stay far away,” she said.