Marking the fourth anniversary of the slaying of Free Trade Union President Chea Vichea, international human rights groups Tuesday called for the release of the two men convicted for the 2004 killing, while a group of around 150 people commemorated his death in Phnom Penh.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation, along with four other international and regional rights groups, issued a joint statement calling on authorities to release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. Both men, who many believe to be innocent, are serving 20-year prison sentences for gunning down Chea Vichea in broad daylight on Jan 22, 2004.
“Four years after the murder of Chea Vichea, the true perpetrators remain at large while two innocent men are imprisoned,” Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia researcher for Amnesty International said in the statement.
“This deep injustice shows the sorry state of rule of law in Cambodia and the urgent need for genuine legal and judicial reform,” she added.
Outside the newsstand at Wat Langka where Chea Vichea was killed, SRP President Sam Rainsy, Human Rights Party Deputy President Keo Remy and Free Trade Union President Chea Mony also called on the government to release the two men and find the true killers.
Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun’s parents were also on hand for the procession.
“My son is not the real gunman as charged by the court,” said Sok Sam Oeun’s father Voung Khun, who called on Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by e-mail that it was wrong to call on the government to release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun as it was a matter for the court. He added that international rights groups are not qualified to determine what really happened in January 2004.
“What is strange, and may be unique in Cambodia, you have just some organizations not really specialized in crime investigation, nor that had been on the crime scene, but made their assessment as the absolute truth,” Khieu Kanharith wrote.