Questions Linger as Chea Vichea Case Continues

The Appeals Court will today hear the case of two men serving 20-year sentences for the 2004 killing of Free Trade Union leader Chea Vichea.

International rights groups have defended the innocence of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, renewing speculation this week about who really killed the country’s most influential trade union leader, and why.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Wednesday that the killing was not politically motivated, as Amnesty International and others have claimed.

“People in the garment factories hated him because he led demonstrations,” Cheam Yeap said.

Someone, he added, in the garment industry may have hired Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun to commit the execution-style hit that stunned the nation.

CPP-affiliated Cambodian Un­ion Federation President Chhoun Mom Thol agreed that an angry garment factory manager may have commissioned the assassination.

“No one likes union leaders because we lead demonstrations,” said Chhoun Mom Thol, who is also an adviser to Interior Minister Sar Kheng

Roger Tan, second deputy chairman of the Garment Manufactures Association of Cambodia, declined comment on Chea Vichea’s case.

“I have no idea about this and no opinion on this,” Tan said.

Chea Vichea’s brother Chea Mony said GMAC gave $10,000 to cover the slain union leader’s funeral expenses.

Chea Mony re­iterated his belief Thursday that the government was behind his brother’s murder.

“Chea Vichea criticized the gov­0ernment, corruption, and the judicial system,” he said. “Chea Vichea had the worker forces [behind him] to call for social change.”

SRP leader Sam Rainsy said he believed now-disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov may have been involved in the killing.

“We should ask Heng Pov if he masterminded the killing of Chea Vichea alone or did he receive an order from above,” Sam Rainsy added.

Heng Pov, who headed the investigation into the shooting, was convicted in absentia last month of the 2003 killing of mu­snicipal court judge Sok Sethamony.

He has also been accused of involvement in the attempted killing of a newspaper publisher and his bodyguard.

After his removal from the municipal police force, Heng Pov was made an adviser to the prime minister.

Heng Pov has denied all allegations against him.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association and a former associate of Chea Vichea, also said he believed Heng Pov was involved.

Chea Vichea may have been killed because he was aligned with the SRP, Rong Chhun said.

At the time of the killing, the SRP was in an Alliance of Democrats with Funcinpec, some six months into the political deadlock that ensued following the July 2003 national elections.

The alliance collapsed in the months that followed Chea Vichea’s killing, and Funcinpec subsequently formed the coalition government with the CPP.

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