Union Leaders Fear Arrest, Refuse Invitation to Inquest

Three union leaders invited to municipal police headquarters for a “personal inquest” today are re­fusing to go, fearing arrest.

The union leaders at the Splen­did Chance factory have ig­nored two earlier requests from police, police said. On Sunday, officials at the leaders’ union federation say they will speak to police instead. But municipal judicial Police Chief Heng Pov said that was not good enough.

“This is the final invitation,” he said. “If they don’t come we will is­sue a warrant to arrest them. We just want to ask them to clarify some accusations. If they didn’t make mistakes, they should come. But if they don’t come, they are guilty.”

But union leaders fear a replay of an incident last year, when a union leader with Tack Fat Gar­ment Group who responded to a police invitation was promptly arrested. “The Tack Fat union leader had this kind of invitation. He was taken to the prison im­mediately after he arrived at the police office,” said Kao Poeun, international liaison officer at the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers, the union federation that includes Splendid Chance.

Former union leader Sok Sam­bath spent six months in prison, Kao Poeun said.

CCAWDU President Chhorn Sokha said she will meet police to hear the accusations against the three union leaders. “If the men made a mistake, I will not support them,” she said.

But the vague invitation for a “personal inquest” in the police letters suggests police are fishing for charges, she said. “If the po­lice send an invitation, they should state their objective clearly.”

Heng Pov declined to state what the men were accused of doing or who accused them.

“We don’t arrest people like that,” he said of the union leaders’ fears. “I call them and we will consider the case. If someone complains about somebody we have to ask them to clarify. If we don’t do that, we are contradicting the law.”

Union president Kim Yong, vice president Sorn Mean and secretary general Ly Bunsao were elected Sept 22 in the factory union’s first election. The union held a one-day strike the next day.



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