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Witness Shed Light in Chea Vichea's Murder


Opposition Sam Rainsy party (SRP) and civil society officials appeal to the Cambodian court to temporarily free Born Sam Nang and Sok Sam Oeun, so that the government can meet an important eyewitness to the murder of a labor union leader, Mr. Chea Vichea, to review the case.

Chea Vichea was president of Cambodia's Free Trade Union of Workers. He fought on behalf of the workers in Cambodia to improve their working and living conditions. He was shot to death on January 22, 2004.

In a four-page statement written in August from Bangkok, Thailand, Ms. Var Sothy, a newsstand vendor where Mr. Chea Vichea was gunned down in 2004, said that Bun Sam Nang, and Sok Sam Oeun are innocent.

Both men were accused of the murder and was found guilty by the Phnom Penh court. Each man received a 20 year sentence. Both are in jail and are appealing.

In the statement obtained by the Cambodia Daily and Chea Mony, the younger brother of Chea Vichea, Ms. Var Sothy said she was there when the murder took place and that she saw the face of the murderer.

The Phnom Penh court last year sentenced the two men each to 20 years in prison for the murder.

Ms. Var Sothy left Cambodia and is seeking asylum at the UNHCR office in Bangkok, Thailand.

She describes the perpetrator who was well-dressed like a professional. She says he was reading a newspaper for about 20 minutes, then fired 3 shots at Chea Vichea and walked away quietly afterwards.

Var Sothy says she was afraid the murder is linked to top officials, and therefore told the police she had seen nothing. She alleges that former police commissioner, Mr. Heng Pov, who is wanted by the Cambodian court, told her to keep quiet.

Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy says that the Phnom Penh Municipal court is not thorough in conducting the case and investigation, and that the departments involved in the case cannot protect the witnesses. He proposes to the Court of Appeals to delay the hearing on the cases for Mr. Born Sam Nang and Mr. Sok Sam Oeun scheduled for this Friday.

Executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project and law lecturer, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun says that Ms. Var Sothy is an important eyewitness, but that in the police report, there was no mention of her as witness.

Mr. Born Sam Nang's lawyer, Mr. Chum Sovannaly says that if the court decides to release his client, then the statement is considered admissible, but in the event that the court refuses to free him, then the evidence will be discarded.

Former King Norodom Sihanouk has said Mr. Born Sam Nang, and Mr. Sok Sam Oeun are innocent.

Cambodia Center for Human Rights' (CCHR) director, Mr. Kem Sokha says that it is about time that the government tell the truth to gain the trust of the Cambodian people and the international community.

Government spokesman, Mr. Khieu Kanharith says that if the NGOs want to help the two defendants, they should send their own lawyers to interview the eyewitness and if her account is true, the two jailed men could be set free.

Minister of Justice Ang Vungvathana said Ms. Var Sothy should send her statement to the court so that it can examine her account instead of making noise from abroad.

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