Labor Group Attacks Probe Of Slayings

The International Confed­er­ation of Free Trade Unions criticized the government this week in a letter to the UN’s Inter­na­tional Labor Organization for not properly investigating the slayings of two union activists.

The 14-page letter detailed a multitude of irregularities and in­adequacies in the authorities’ handling of the killings of former Free Trade Union president Chea Vichea and FTU steering committee member Ros Sovannareth.

“The above shows, at best, that the government of Cambodia is unable to carry out a proper investigation into the murders and en­sure proper judicial process; at worst, that it is unwilling to do so. This in turn suggests that the government itself may not wish the truth to be known,” concluded the Belgium-based group, to which Cambodia’s largest union belongs.

Two men who have yet to stand trial are in prison for the Jan 22 shooting of Chea Vichea, but the case against them has been undercut by conflicting alibis and dubious evidence. An RCAF paratrooper, also awaiting trial, is being held for May 7 shooting of Ros Sovan­nareth.

Aside from casting doubt on the guilt of the accused, the ICFTU took issue with the au­thorities’ lack of effort to find the backers of the apparent contract killings, and arresting in­stead only the alleged hit men.

The criticism also voiced some previously whispered theories on the cases. “Allegedly, the perpetrators [of Chea Vichea’s assassination] belong to a death squad similar to the one that gunned down popular singer Touch Srey Nich,” the letter said.

Government officials responded to the massive public outcry following Chea Vichea’s death earlier this year by promising that the killers would be brought to justice. The government also denied allegations by opposition leader Sam Rainsy that government officials were behind the killing.

The ICFTU asked that the ILO forward the complaint to its Com­mittee on Freedom of As­socia­tion. Calls to the ILO office in Phnom Penh went unanswered Thursday.

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