Any hope of bail for labor leader Vorn Pao and 20 other garment workers and unionists detained during strikes in early January was extinguished by the Supreme Court on Friday, after their fifth application to be released from prison was denied.
Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association, is being tried alongside 22 others who were rounded up during garment strikes on January 2 and 3, and who were charged with causing intentional violence and damaging public property. The trial, which began on April 25, has been adjourned until May 20.
“The Supreme Court has decided to uphold the verdict of the Court of Appeal, because the current investigating judge has closed the investigation and the hearing is in process, so the defendants have to remain in prison to await their next hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” said Presiding Judge Khim Pon.
The men’s previous applications for bail were denied twice by the municipal court and twice by the Court of Appeal.
Mr. Pao’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said he was disappointed in the outcome, which means all avenues for release have been exhausted.
“We are…regretful that the Supreme Court has mixed the trial and the bail hearing together,” he said.
Mr. Pao’s wife, Prak Sovannary, said she felt “hopeless,” particularly because her husband has been grappling with ongoing health issues that she feels have not been addressed during his detention.