Gov’t to Reinvestigate Union Leaders’ Slayings

An interministerial committee has been established to once again investigate the assassinations of Free Trade Union (FTU) leaders Chea Vichea, Hy Vuthy and Ros Sovannareth between 2004 and 2007, according to a government decree obtained Thursday.

Chea Vichea, the founding president of the FTU, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in January 2004, with Ros Sovannareth and Hy Vuthy, activists from the same union, being gunned down under almost identical circumstances later in 2004 and in 2007, respectively.

All three cases have been prosecuted in court, with two men—Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun-—serving years in prison for killing Chea Vichea before being released due to a lack of evidence in 2013.

Now, more than ten years after the first of the three assassinations, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered that relevant government ministries reinvestigate the killings.

“The government has created a special interministerial investigating committee for the complaint about the murder of union leaders Chea Vichea, Hy Vuthy and Ros Sovannareth,” reads a June 10 decree signed by Mr. Hun Sen.

The decree says that the committee will be chaired by a secretary of state from the Interior Ministry, deputized by one secretary of state from the Labor Ministry and another from the Justice Ministry, and include members from other ministries, the police and the military.

It says the committee will have the duty “to cooperate with authorities and involved parties to collect information and evidence; to go and study all the details of the case and the law,” with the goal of reporting its findings about the slayings to the International Labor Organization.

Chea Mony, the brother of Chea Vichea who succeeded him as president of the FTU, said he was not hopeful that the investigation would be any more successful than those in the past.

“I am excited that the government has created this interministerial investigating committee, but I think that the committee should also have some civil society officials and members of the victims’ families on it,” Mr. Mony said.

“I don’t believe they will find the real murderers, so I will sleep on it and wait to see if the government can find justice for the victims and their families or not,” he said.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Prum Sokha referred questions about the committee to ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, who could not be reached.

National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said he had heard about the committee’s creation, but had no information about it.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor with local rights group Licadho, said he hoped the committee’s work would prove more sincere than past efforts.

“If the government creates this interministerial committee, please have real political will to find the real murderers, and don’t just create it for demagoguery, because the victims’ families have waited for justice for a long time,” he said.

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