PHNOM PENH —
It has been more than a decade since the popular labor leader Chea Vichea was killed on a Phnom Penh street.
His two assailants have never been captured or brought to trial, and his supporters and family say the hope for justice is fading.
Chea Mony, his younger brother, who now heads the Free Trade Union his brother once led, took part in a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the killing. “There has been no arrest of the real murderers, so there is not yet justice,” he said.
About 200 people took part in the ceremony, on the street outside the Wat Lanka pagoda where Chea Vichea was shot. Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha also took part in the ceremony—which was watched over by about 100 riot police.
Chea Vichea, who had become a prominent leader of a major labor movement, was shot three times as he read a newspaper on a streetside kiosk outside the pagoda on Jan. 22, 2004. He had ignored threats to his life, and refused to leave the country or go into hiding.
His assailants rode a motorcycle and wore helmets concealing their identities. Police quickly arrested and charged two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, for the crime—but they have been widely regarded as innocent scapegoats and have since been released. And while police say they will re-open the investigation at the order of the court, no other suspects have ever been arrested.
Reached recently by VOA Khmer, Born Samnang said he did not want to talk about the case. “I just want to live in happiness,” he said. “I don’t want this tragedy to happen to me again.”
Chea Mony said his brother was killed because he had a close relationship to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and because he was gaining notoriety as a labor leader.
No one has been arrested, because the murder was likely backed by a powerful official, Chea Mony said. “So where is the justice?”