Court Says Roadblock More Severe Than Shooting

Responding to criticism of the eighteen-month jail terms handed down to four unionists who blocked a road at a strike in Svay Rieng province last year, a deputy prosecutor said Wednesday that their actions were as severe as those of former Bavet City governor Chhouk Bundith, who received the same sentence for shooting three workers in 2012.

The Svay Rieng Provincial Court on Monday sentenced in absentia four officials from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) for blocking National Road 1 for about an hour last August, according to deputy prosecutor Phan Ratana.

He claimed that the disruption to traffic resulted in more victims than the shooting by Mr. Bundith, who last week turned himself in to police after more than two years on the run, and was captured in photographs brandishing his handgun moments after the shooting.

“There is no image of them [the unionists] shooting three people but they blocked the road. Those who cannot travel, how many died because they could no longer breathe?” Mr. Ratana said. “You can’t see an image of that.”

The deputy prosecutor said that people traveling along National Road 1 to Vietnam for medical treatment, particularly pregnant women, were among the victims of the roadblock, but he was unsure if anyone died.

“The people who died while they blocked the road, they could not file a complaint because they are already dead,” he said.

The four unionists—Toun Saren, Chea Oudom, Cham Samnang and Suth Chet—have 30 days to file an appeal and will not be detained before then, Mr. Ratana said.

Mr. Saren was arrested at the scene of the protest at the You Li garment factory in Bavet City, but Mr. Chet said Wednesday that he and Mr. Oudom were not present.

CUMW president Pav Sina said Wednesday that a formal appeal would be lodged next week.

“If the Appeal Court upholds the decision, we will hold a huge demonstration in the province to demand the charges be dropped,” he said.

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