Kandal Provincial Court’s landmark decision last week to convict a union leader for inciting a strike at the province’s Fortune Garment factory was based on flimsy testimony and a lack of evidence, defense lawyer Lean Chinda said Friday.
Representatives from the US Embassy and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity have criticized the ruling in the case brought by the factory against leader Sok Vy.
Sok Vy was handed a 14-month suspended sentence Thursday for violating Article 60, “Incitement not leading to a crime,” and Article 52, about damage to property, under the Untac law. Critics say strikes should instead fall under the 1997 Labor Law and worry that the conviction will silence unions.
Lean Chinda said the court did not specify what kind of crime Sok Vy is accused of inciting. In addition, she said, no evidence was brought forth to support the verdict.
Testimony showed only that a strike originated in the laundry department of the factory where Sok Vy was working, not that it resulted from his actions, she said. She added that he was not even a union leader at the time of the June strike—he was elected as a union leader in August.
“The decision of the court rested on the testimony of the translator that said as a result of the strike, windows were broken, as well as a hose. But there is no evidence of when these things were broken or who broke them,” she said.
Sok Vy and other union activists said Friday that 400 factory workers were prevented by police from boarding a truck to testify at the trial.
Reached by telephone Friday, Judge Kloth Pich said “if they criticize, there is an Appeals Court.”
At the World Bank-sponsored conference on the Cambodian economy Friday, the union leader’s conviction was repeatedly raised.
World Bank Chief Economist Homi Kharas said he did not know about the case nor the details of last year’s killing of Free Trade Union President Chea Vichea.
Union-management relations in Cambodia “seem to be going extremely well,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)