The government has shelved plans to seek legal action against union leader Chea Mony for his public statements implicating the government in the murder of his brother, former Free Trade Union President Chea Vichea, government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said yesterday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen last week called off any prospective lawsuits against Mr Mony, the minister said, adding that the government believes it is the loss of his brother and his grief that are causing Mr Mony to lash out against the government—and not because of any evidence demonstrating the government was involved in the killing.
“The premier has ordered the government’s lawyer to drop the plan to sue Chea Mony after he recently saw our proposal to him,” Mr Kanharith said yesterday. “Prime Minister Hun Sen said everyone could become angry when they lose their relative,” he said.
Last week, government officials, including Mr Kanharith and spokesman for the Interior Ministry Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, said the government would likely sue Mr Mony for defamation after he said in open court, “I think it was government officials who organized the plot to kill my brother.”
Mr Kanharith once again denied government authorities played any role in the killing and stated police continue to examine the high profile crime that has gone unsolved for more than five years.
“The police continue their investigation to arrest the real gunmen and this action (choosing not to sue Mr Mony) does not mean that the government is behind the case at all,” the minister added.
Chea Vichea was gunned down in January 2004 at a Phnom Penh newsstand as he read a newspaper. His brazen daytime killing and the authorities’ subsequent handling of the murder case have drawn fierce criticism from numerous national and international organizations.
Authorities eventually arrested two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and sentenced both to 20 years in prison amid claims that the two were mere scapegoats and their court proceedings were highly irregular and unfair.
In December, and amid continuing international and national pressure, the Supreme Court released both men on bail and ordered the Appeal Court to reinvestigate the killing of Chea Vichea.
On Aug 17, the Appeal Court agreed the case of Chea Vichea must be reinvestigated due to a lack of evidence against Mr Samnang and Mr Sam Oeun who remain free on bail. It was during that Appeal Court hearing that Mr Mony stated his long-standing claim of government involvement in the killing of his brother.
Mr Mony, the current FTU president, said yesterday that he was thankful for the premier’s decision, but reiterated that he stood by his calls for justice for his slain brother and his belief that there was government involvement in the killing.
He said the threats of lawsuits have not nor will they change his mind regarding who is ultimately responsible for his brother’s death.
“I still demand the government finds, arrests and brings the real killer to trial and give justice to my brother,” he said.
“I think that it is not hard for the government to find the real killer and try them by the rule of law,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)