Union to Defy Order, March to Commemorate Chea Vichea’s Slaying

About 150 garment worker union representatives will defy a ban on public assemblies and mark the 10th anniversary of the assassination of union leader Chea Vichea by marching from their office in Chamkar Mon district to the site of his murder at Wat Lanka on Wednesday.

The Free Trade Union (FTU) said that they received confirmation from City Hall on Friday that their request to march from the union’s headquarters in Boeng Keng Kang 3 commune to the statue of Chea Vichea, which is located just meters from where he was shot by an assassin outside Wat Lanka on January 22, 2004, had been rejected.

“The Phnom Penh municipality informed us that the planned march was not permitted, but that we were allowed to assemble at the statue to pay our respects,” said Mann Seng Hok, an advisor to the FTU, which is now headed by Chea Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony.

“Although the Phnom Penh municipality has banned the march, we will stick to our planned march because it’s not a political march or a protest,” Mr. Seng Hok said, adding that Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng had warned the FTU that it would be to blame for any violent incidents.

On Wednesday at 8 a.m., an estimated 150 representatives from the FTU and other unions will gather at the FTU headquarters in Boeng Keng Kang 3, march along street 360 and onto Street 51, which will take them to the Chea Vichea statue inaugurated last year in the park opposite Wat Lanka.

City Hall has banned the constitutionally protected right to public assembly following the deadly suppression of garment factory protests by troops and military police, saying that the ban would be indefinite “until security and public order is guaranteed.” Military police shot dead five protesting garment factory workers and wounded more than 40 on January 3.

Long Dimanche, the municipality’s spokesman, said that for the time being, the ban would stay in place. “We cannot allow them to march, since the situation is not yet back to normal,” he claimed.

Legal experts have said the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is acting illegally by suspending the Constitution on spurious grounds.

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