Investigations Into Labor Murders Have Been Inadequate, UN Says

Insufficient investigations into the murders of three labor leaders in Cambodia warrants the “special attention” of the In­ter­national Labor Organization, the UN body’s committee on freedom of association concluded ear­lier this month.

In a report released last week, the committee urged the government to undertake prompt and independent investigations into the murders of Free Trade Un­ion leaders Chea Vichea, Ros Sovannareth and Hy Vuthy.

“The Committee continues to express its profound concern with the extreme seriousness of the case and the repeated ab­sence of information on the steps taken to investigate the above matters in a transparent, independent and impartial manner, a necessary prerequisite to creating a climate free from violence and intimidation necessary for the full development of the trade union movement in Cambodia,” the report said.

At its most recent meeting in Geneva, which concluded on June 5, the committee examined 26 complaints submitted by trade union groups around the world. The only other cases meriting the so-called special attention of the ILO were in Burma and Iran.

The committee made particular note of the murder of the outspoken Free Trade Union president Mr Vichea, who was gun­ned down at a Phnom Penh news­paper stand on Jan 22, 2004. Sok Sam Oeun and Born Sam­nang were convicted for the murder, while many believed the men to be scapegoats for the crime. The Supreme Court or­dered the men’s temporary re­lease in January after ordering a re-investigation of the case.

The ILO committee’s report urged the government “to en­sure that the investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea is prompt, independent, and expeditiously carried out, so as to ensure that all available information is brought before the courts with a view to determining the actual murderers and the instigators of the assassination.”

Although it acknowledged the release of Mr Sam Oeun and Mr Samnang as a positive development, the committee said that it, “deeply regrets that the Gov­ernment has yet again failed to provide any information regarding the other aspects of the case.”

Chea Mony, Mr Vichea’s bro­ther and current president of the Free Trade Union, said Wed­nesday that the government

is not willing to find the real

“I feel sorry,” he said. “Five and almost six years now that they didn’t conduct the investigation, they didn’t do the work; they just always delayed it.”

Mr Mony added that the rights of union groups in Cambodia could become “restricted and worse,” as the National Assem­bly debates a draft law on peaceful demonstrations that would forbid gatherings of more than 200 people.

After Mr Sam Oeun and Mr Samnang were released on bail in January, Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General Khieu Sopheak said that the murder investigation had been re-opened. He also stated that police were still investigating the deaths of Mr Sovannareth, killed in 2004, and Mr Vuthy, shot dead in 2007.

When contacted by telephone Wednesday, Mr Sopheak said that he was too busy to give an update on the status of those investigations or comment on the ILO committee’s report.

Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said he was away from his office, and declined to answer a reporter’s questions.

Allan Dow, communications and advocacy officer for the ILO in Bangkok, referred questions to Karen Curtis, deputy director of the ILO International Labor Standards Department in Gene­va. Ms Curtis did not respond to e-mailed questions Wednesday.

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