Free Trade Union President Chea Mony has again written to the Royal Palace asking that the title of national hero be given to his later brother and former FTU president, Chea Vichea, who was shot dead by gunmen in 2004.
Chea Mony said Thursday that this is his second official request for the title to be given to his slain brother, who as an outspoken union chief and tough government critic who gained the first ever minimum monthly wage for the country’s garment factory workers.
Following the killing of Chea Vichea in 2004, the FTU requested then-King Norodom Sihanouk to bestow the hero title on the union leader and presented a supporting petition of 21,633 signatures and thumbprints that weighed 6 kgs, Chea Mony said.
Norodom Sihanouk, who has since retired, forwarded the request for hero status to the National Assembly, but there has not yet been a response, he said.
Chea Mony said he hopes his latest request, sent to King Norodom Sihamoni, will be successful.
“We have observed that the heads of the government were granted this [hero] title by the King…. The workers have seen Chea Vichea’s past achievements so he deserves to be granted this title by the King,” he said.
Royal Palace cabinet member Oum Daravuth said on Thursday that he had not yet seen the request to make the slain union chief a national hero but he added that King Sihamoni studies each request carefully.
“King Norodom Sihamoni is neutral and independent. He respects everyone. Chea Mony is also one of his children. It is up to the King. The King must first study the request,” he added.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that Chea Vichea was one of many Cambodians who had lost their lives in the pursuit of their profession, but death doesn’t necessarily make someone a national hero.
“There were journalists and soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the people and they didn’t receive any titles,” Khieu Kanharith said.
“If the King grants [Chea Vichea] a title, then thousands of people will also request one,” he said.