Union Leader to Face Questioning This Week

Phnom Penh Municipal Court will this week question a union leader who was arrested last month and charged with distributing drugs, a lawyer for the man said yesterday.

Sous Chantha, 27, a former leader of the Democratic Independent Solidarity Union Federation at the United Apparel garment factory in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune, will appear before the court on Thursday, his lawyer Sen Sokim said.

“After the questioning I will submit a letter asking the judge to release him on bail…. There are about 343 thumbprints of workers [on a petition] supporting him,” he said.

This will be the second time Mr Chantha has been questioned, Mr Sokim said, adding that the first questioning was very brief and did not go into much detail.

Deputy prosecutor Heang Sopheak yesterday referred questions to Judge Phu Pousun, who declined to comment.

Military police arrested Mr Chantha after he left work on Nov 18, having allegedly discovered an unidentified drug hidden in his motorbike.

Mr Chantha was charged with distributing drugs on Nov 19 and sent to Prey Sar prison, although rights groups, unions and co-workers have all voiced concerns over the arrest.

In the days leading up to his arrest, Mr Chantha was in the process of staging a defection from DISUF and planned to take almost 1,000 workers with him.

Mr Sokim said he would ask the court to conduct forensic testing to determine what type of drug Mr Chantha is accused of carrying.

Sous Sak, elder brother of the accused, insisted yesterday that Mr Chantha was not involved in distributing drugs. “If he is sentenced to prison, people will not believe in our country’s laws,” he said.

DISUF President Poul Mountry has since said the large-scale defection was cancelled, but DISUF Secretary-General Chuon Sokha said yesterday the defection was merely on hold until Mr Chantha was released.

“It is injustice for him. We don’t know if it is a set-up or not,” Mr Sokha said.



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