Twenty-One Men Detained After Strikes Seek Bail for Fifth Time

Union activist Vorn Pao and 20 other workers and activists who have been jailed since the violent suppression of garment protests in early January had their request for bail heard for the fifth time on Friday, this time by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Pao, the president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), is being tried alongside 22 others rounded up and beaten over a two-day period during garment strikes in January. Two of the men were bailed, and a trial against all 23, who are charged with violence and destroying public property, opened on April 25 and was adjourned until May 6.

None of the 21 detained men was present at yesterday’s hearing, during which Mr. Pao’s defense lawyer, Sam Sokong, called on Presiding Judge Khim Pon to bail the union leader, who underwent a kidney operation last year and is in need of medical assistance, because his health is said to have worsened after being beaten.

“His health condition is being affected, because he had surgery,” Mr. Sokong said in his appeal to the panel of judges.

But deputy prosecutor Chhuon Chantha said bail should not be considered at this stage, because the trials have already begun.

The bail requests have been rejected twice by the municipal court and twice by the Court of Appeal.

Judge Pon said a verdict in the bail hearing would be handed down on May 9—three days after the men’s trial resumes.

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