Supporters Welcome Chea Mony’s Return at Phnom Penh Airport

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony returned from three months of self-imposed exile to a crowd of more than 100 supporters at Phnom Penh International Air­port on Wednesday morning.

The supporters carried him ap­proximately 50 meters to his car, and half the crowd followed to the FTU’s Daun Penh district headquarters, where he explained his re­­turn despite pending criminal def­amation charges stemming from his criticism of Prime Min­ister Hun Sen’s border negotiations with Vietnam.

Colleagues of Cambodian In­de­pendent Civil Servants Asso­ciation President Men Nath and Stu­dents Movement for Demo­cracy Deputy Secretary-General Ir Channa, two other border critics facing similar charges, said Wednesday that they were given asylum in Norway last week.

Chea Mony said he had re­turned following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s offer to ask the court for leniency for border critics returning from abroad who write conciliatory letters to him.

“I thanked him because the gov­ernment dropped its accusations,” Chea Mony said. “We continue to work under Samdech Hun Sen’s leadership.”

Hun Sen has stated that al­though only the courts can decide criminal cases, he is willing to ask the courts to stall the process until the statute of limitations runs out in three years.

Chea Mony said he would go to court if called for questioning, and FTU Secretary-General Mann Seng Hak said the Prime Minis­ter’s cabinet had already accepted a copy of the letter of thanks.

“[I] would like to express my pro­found thanks to Samdech prime minister Hun Sen for dropping accusations against me,” Chea Mony wrote.

Since the government and King Norodom Sihamoni have ratified the border treaty as law, Chea Mony said he will accept it. “I would like to comply with those in­­stitutions that represent the country and the people,” he added.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Chea Mony might not be arrested.

“He came from outside to stay in­­side, so it is not necessary to de­tain him,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Cambodian Independent Civil Ser­vants Association spokesman Pho Boromey lamented the loss of Men Nath’s service to the country, but added that returning home would be too big a risk.

“It is not clear yet that the government will drop the charges,” he said.

SMD Acting President Sorn Dara said the government was ce­menting its power by driving activists away.

“This is a good opportunity for the dictators to continue their dictatorship,” he said.

“Activists cannot help us while they are living abroad.”


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