Scrap Investigation, Chea Vichea’s Brother Says on Anniversary

Thirteen years after the murder of union leader Chea Vichea sent shockwaves across the country, his younger brother on Sunday called for the investigation into the killing to be scrapped so the government can stop pretending that it is trying to find the gunman.

Breaking from his usual calls for authorities to find his brother’s killer, Chea Mony, who took over as head of the Free Trade Union (FTU) for several years after Chea Vichea’s death, used a small anniversary rally to tell authorities not to bother with continuing their supposed investigation.

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Chea Mony, center holding a microphone, speaks at a ceremony in Phnom Penh marking 13 years since the murder of his brother, popular union leader Chea Vichea. (Satoshi Takahashi)

“I would like to inform you that I stopped believing the government. It is 13 years already, and they have found nothing,” Mr. Mony told about 200 supporters near the newsstand where his brother was gunned down in central Phnom Penh.

“For me, the younger brother of Mr. Chea Vichea, I won’t let you continue trying to find [the killer] for me anymore,” he added.

Chea Vichea had just bought his morning newspapers on January 22, 2004, when an unmasked man walked up and fired two shots at the popular union leader, killing him instantly. More than 10,000 supporters turned out for his funeral procession.

The documentary “Who Killed Chea Vichea,” which is ostensibly banned by the government, makes a strong case suggesting government involvement in the killing and alleged cover-up.

Police quickly arrested two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, days after the killing, but a judge dismissed the case due to a lack of evidence. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court overturned that decision, however, and both were sentenced to 20 years in jail for the murder in August 2005.

Members of the Free Trade Union pose in front of a statue of Chea Vichea in Phnom Penh yesterday after a ceremony marking 13 years since the popular unionist was murdered. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Samnang and Mr. Sam Oeun—long considered scapegoats—were exonerated by the Supreme Court in September 2013 and freed. Despite police saying the investigation into Chea Vichea’s murder was reopened, there has been no indication of progress since then.

Touch Soeu, who replaced Mr. Mony as president of the FTU last year, said at the ceremony that the government clearly did not want to arrest the real killer.

“This case is related to politics and when the case is related to politics, they cannot find,” she told the crowd. “In short, if they don’t want to find, they won’t find. If they want to find, they will find.”

Spokesmen for the ministries of interior and justice could not be reached. Mok Chito, a deputy National Police chief, said he was too busy at a wedding party to comment on the case.

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