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Four Convicted Union Leaders Call for New Independent Investigation Into Deadly 2014 Crackdown


File Photo: Ath Thon, president of Cambodian Labor Confederation, talked to journalists about working environment in the country during a rally to celebrate International Labor Day on May 1, 2018 in Phnom Penh. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Four Cambodian union leaders who were convicted over their alleged involvement in organizing garment worker strikes that led to the deaths of at least five people in early 2014 have called for an independent inquiry into the use of force against protesters.

The group each received suspended sentences of two and a half years for their participation.

“This case has not ended yet, meaning we were found guilty although we didn’t do anything wrong. I haven’t seen any specific report from other investigations that were conducted by the government. The ILO [International Labor Organization] also called on the government to present reports talking about the crackdown during that time,” Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodia Labor Confederation (CLC), told VOA last week.

Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said she had “requested to have a clear and impartial investigation comprising all relevant parties.”

“If there is one side conducting the investigations, I think that there will not be a neutral investigation for us,”

Garment workers conducted a large-scale strike in late 2013 and early 2014 in industrial areas of Phnom Penh that led to a deadly showdown with military police and paratroopers on Veng Sreng Boulevard.

Four people were confirmed killed in the crackdown with another, a 16-year-old boy, reported shot and missing. Dozens were wounded in the clashes.

Some 23 human rights workers were arrested during the strikes but were later released following international outcry.

Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), who was one of the 23, said a new investigation into the crackdown was needed.

“This incident is not an incident that caused tiny injuries, but it’s an attempt to beat us to death. Thus, there should be a clear investigation in order to punish the perpetrators who committed violence against us,” he said.

“Now, we have chronic illnesses due to the beating and we got depression. Who is responsible for all this? There should be punishment for those spoiling our health, causing injuries for us until now.”

Gen. Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told VOA that only the courts could order new investigation.

“What I want to inform you is that this case falls in the remit of the courts, meaning the courts obtained all information from the authorities, including photos and evidence. So, all the decisions made by the courts are at the discretion of the courts. The Ministry of Interior will comply with the court’s instructions,” he said.

Ly Sophana, spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, did not respond to questions.

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